Darwin Airlines is back to being Darwin Airlines. The Swiss carrier spent the past few years operating as Etihad Regional after a 2013 investment bought Etihad control of company (though only a third of the shares). At that time grand expansion was expected. The deep pockets of Etihad and feed from Abu Dhabi passengers connecting in Zurich were to help double the destinations served in less than a year.
— Etihad Airways (@EtihadAirways) November 17, 2013
Much like the other investments Etihad made in European carriers, however, this one didn’t work quite as originally planned.
Slovenian carrier Adria Airways now owns 99.1% of Darwin, the company confirmed, with the outstanding shares expected to be acquired shortly. The operation will keep its hubs at Lugano and Zurich and will return to operating as Darwin Airlines using the carrier’s operating certificate. Although its growth is relatively slow Adria runs a solid operation and this expansion presents a good opportunity for the combined carriers.
Adria is also a member of the Star Alliance group through its participation in the Miles & More loyalty program. So is Swiss, the dominant carrier in Switzerland. It would be an interesting shift to see the Darwin flights move to also join that group, though certainly good news for those who participate in partner programs.
It is worth noting that, unlike the other Etihad airline investments this one might not prove to be a complete debacle. While Air Berlin and Alitalia hemorrhage cash with uncertain operational futures Darwin reportedly turned a small profit in 2016 and forecasts similar in 2017. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.