International superstar Ronan Keating joined a line-up of VIPs at the official launch of Etihad Airways new daily services between Perth and Abu Dhabi in the Western Australian capital last night.
The gala event, overlooking the city's skyline from landmark Kings Park, was hosted by the airline's Chief Commercial Officer, Peter Baumgartner, who is in Australia this week for a series of business events.
Among the 300 guests were Australia's Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar, His Excellency Pablo Kang; Senior Ministers from the Western Australian Cabinet; Australian sporting legends – John Bertrand, Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer – and members of the state's diplomatic, business and media community.
Mr Baumgartner thanked guests for the support they had given the UAE flag carrier for the successful launch of its new Perth services.
"We are delighted by the enthusiastic response we've had from our stakeholders and the people of Western Australia.
"The interest in Etihad Airways and our home, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, has been extraordinary and we look forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership with the State.
"Etihad Airways promises not only to bring more competition to the market and offer guests a rewarding new travel experience, but also to invest in the economic prosperity of rural and regional Western Australia through our partnerships with Virgin Australia, Tourism Australia and Tourism Western Australia."
Etihad Airways commenced daily, non-stop flights between Abu Dhabi and Perth on 15 July 2014 with an Airbus A330-200 offering 22 seats in business class and 240 in the economy cabin.
This adds more than 190,000 new seats of airline capacity each year to the Western Australian travel market and offers greater access to convenient, one-stop flights between Perth and over 30 business and holiday destinations worldwide over Abu Dhabi.
The cargo capacity of the aircraft also offers the potential to strengthen trade between the UAE and Australia, which is growing at a rapid rate, up 25 per cent to $A6.4 billion in 2013.