ABU DHABI - The maiden flight of Etihad Airways' long-awaited Airbus A380 superjumbo will take place next week, the Abu Dhabi carrier said Thursday, also announcing its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner route.
The rapidly growing airline said it had nine more A380s and 71 additional 787s on order, describing the delivery of the first two planes in its updated fleet as "momentous".
The A380 is to enter commercial service on December 27 with a flight to London Heathrow, while Etihad's first 787 flight will land in Duesseldorf in Germany on February 1 next year.
Etihad chief executive James Hogan said the carrier wants to be deploy the double-decker on "slot-constrained" destinations.
"By deploying the A380 on to London, we'll be able to sell more seats, and that's the same for Sydney and New York," Hogan told AFP, pointing out Etihad's three Heathrow slots were insufficient.
Etihad, Dubai-based Emirates -- owner of 56 A380s -- and Qatar Airways have seized a sizable share of transcontinental travel, turning their Gulf cities into major transit hubs.
The expansion of the three has brought criticism from so-called legacy airlines, and complaints of unfair competition with the state-owned operators.
Hogan said Etihad synchronises its flight schedules with those of its partners in Europe, and through codeshare agreements with other carriers including Air France-KLM.
"We work on a codeshare basis, hand in hand," he said, brushing off complaints from legacy airlines by saying "competition is competition".
Etihad, which posted a 30-percent year-on-year increase in passenger numbers between July and September, holds equity in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia, Air Lingus, Air Serbia, and Jet Airways.
The European Commission last month approved Etihad's acquisition of a 49-percent stake in debt-laden Alitalia. The carrier is also still formalising its equity investment in Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operating by Darwin Airlines.
Hogan said Thursday his carrier in not in talks to increase its stake in Jet Airways, and has "never been in talks" to buy a stake in unprofitable South African Airways, as has been reported.