Etihad Airways A340-500. By Rob Finlayson

Etihad Airways (EY) plans to launch daily Abu Dhabi (AUH)-Washington Dulles (IAD) Airbus A340-500 flights from March 31, 2013, pending regulatory approval.

IAD will become Etihad's fourth North American destination after New York JFK, Chicago O'Hare and Toronto. President and CEO James Hogan, in Washington Wednesday to announce the new route, said two more US cities are likely to be added over the next few years.

He said IAD-originating passengers will be able to bypass the European hubs by connecting to AUH via EY and then traveling beyond to India, China, Pakistan and Australia, among other destinations.

In 2013, he added, EY plans to begin serving Latin America. "We're building a balanced network," he said.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba pointed out that weekly flight connections between the US and UAE have jumped from just seven in 2004 to 70 currently.

The A340-500 used on the AUH-IAD route will be configured with 12 first-class seats, 28 business seats and 200 economy seats. The aircraft will have an anticipated belly cargo load of 140 tonnes per week.