Gorkana Insight & Analysis Team
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has brought in Bell Pottinger to work on a UK brief covering consumer, corporate, public affairs and sponsorship.
Bell Pottinger replaces Four Communications which worked on the account in the UK for the last five years. Four Communications in Abu Dhabi, led by Ray Eglington, the company’s international managing director, will continue to provide corporate PR, strategic advice and issues management support to the airline.
Michael Venus, Etihad Airways’ vice president of corporate affairs, said: "Bell Pottinger has an outstanding record of helping to build global brands in the travel and transport industry. Its experience is second to none and together we will be looking to deepen relationships with key stakeholders and communicate our success story to an even wider audience."
He said the appointment came at "a crucial time, as we continue to build our profile in the UK and other markets worldwide".
David Wilson, group managing director of parent group Bell Pottinger Private, who will oversee the account, said: "Etihad Airways has a world-class product and customer service record that stretches beyond its existing and growing number of loyal customers."
The agency will communicate the airline's corporate and product story among key influencers "helping to ensure that its importance as an economic enabler is better understood in the UK and beyond".
Bell Pottinger Business & Brand’s specialist aerospace team will provide strategic communications counsel, plus consumer and corporate PR in the UK, while Bell Pottinger Public Affairs will also support the Abu Dhabi-based airline with political analysis and engagement.
The team will also handle the airline's UK sponsorships which include 2012 Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City, the club's signature Etihad Stadium, and also Harlequins, 2012 winners of rugby's Aviva Premiership.
Mr Venus thanked Four Communications "for their tireless efforts over the last five years".
Etihad Airways has this year acquired minority equity stakes in Virgin Australia, Air Seychelles and Aer Lingus, and owns nearly 30 per cent of airberlin. These investments complement the airline's organic growth and burgeoning codeshare partnerships.
The airline also recently announced an agreement with Air France-KLM to codeshare on flights across the airlines' networks, the first phase of a much larger strategic commercial partnership, which starts on October 28.
It reported third quarter revenues of US$1.3 billion, up 19 per cent on 2011 (US$ 1.1 billion). The record revenues reflected passenger numbers up 23 per cent, with 2.79 million travellers in the quarter (2.27 million).