Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etihad Airways has come in as the “principal sponsor” for the Chennai Super Kings. This means the airline, which today connects 10 Indian cities to Abu Dhabi, will get high visibility during IPL matches, with its name displayed on the backs of players’ jerseys and elsewhere, such as the perimeter board.

“When you become a principal sponsor, you get a list of things you can do,” Rakesh Singh, Director, Chennai Super Kings Ltd., told media here on Thursday.

The partnership agreement is for a period of three years “on paper,” but would be for much longer, he said. No financials were disclosed, but Singh said that CSK gets from all sponsorships “upwards of ₹100 crore.”

Etihad, in September 2023, had signed up Bollywood star, Katrina Kaif, as the brand ambassador.

Bilateral agreement

Under the bilateral agreement with India, Etihad Airways is entitled to fly 50,000 weekly seats to Abu Dhabi per week; today, along with its partner airline, Air Arabia, it flies 42,000 seats, with about 85–90 per cent occupancy, said Arik De, Chief Revenue and Commercial Officer of the airline. He said that the airline is not asking for more seats. “We are happy where we are.” Etihad’s India business has grown 30 per cent a year after the pandemic, he said.

De also did not believe that the inauguration of the Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi on February 14 would have any significant impact on Etihad’s India business, adding that the relationship between India and the UAE is “much beyond the temple.” He said that the temple is “one step” in the partnership journey. He pointed out that the heads of the two countries (Prime Minister Modi and President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan) enjoy a very warm relationship.

“It is not as though we woke up and India is happening; we have been here for twenty years and doing well,” De said.

Etihad flies Airbus 350 aircraft to some cities, but not A-380s (both of which are advanced aircraft of Airbus).

Asked to name a unique feature of Etihad Airways, De said that a passenger flying to the US could complete the US immigration process in Abu Dhabi itself. “No other airline has this,” he said.