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MILAN: Following its deal with Alitalia, Etihad has made a first move to develop Milan as a cargo hub with the announcement of a partnership with Avianca to operate a twice-weekly 747-400 freighter service from Malpensa to Bogotá, Colombia with a return via Amsterdam.

Beginning November 14, Avianca will provide cargo connections with both freighter and passenger aircraft from Bogotá to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Paraguay.

etihad 747FMeanwhile Etihad, which already operates four freighter flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Milan, will feed traffic from markets across Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The Abu Dhabi airline says Milan will be the center of a European road feeder network linking other Italian cities as well as destinations in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Shipments between the two long-haul hubs are expected to include raw materials, perishables, machinery parts, equipment, industrial consumables and fashion goods.

Kevin Knight, chief strategy and planning officer at Etihad Airways, said that as the third largest cargo market in Europe Italy had been a key focus area for Etihad Cargo since 2007: "To date Etihad Airways has carried almost 130,000 tonnes of cargo into and out of Italy and we are delighted to build on this success with the launch of a new cargo route between Milan and Bogotá, operated in partnership with Avianca Cargo."

Avianca cargo vice president Victor Mejia added: "This is a valuable opportunity to expand Avianca Cargo's network, especially in moving perishable goods from the Americas that are highly demanded in Europe. At the same time, we would be strengthening our cargo hub operations in Bogota in order to provide quality cargo transportation to Europe throughout the region, with an extensive network that unites with our three hubs - Bogotá, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and San Salvador, El Salvador."

Etihad reported cargo revenue of US$284 million in the third quarter of 2014, a year-on-year increase of 16 percent. Cargo carried increased nine percent to 145,000 tonnes during the period and the airline says the division remains on track to be a billion-dollar business by the end of the year having reported revenue of US$804 million and carried 415,000 tonnes in the first nine months.

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