Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has taken a 33.3 per cent stake in the Swiss carrier Darwin Airline, a move that will see the European airline rebranded as Etihad Regional.

It is the first time the brand name has been used by Etihad Airways as part of an equity agreement and will set a precedent for future deals. 

Speaking at Dubai Airshow press conference, chief executive officer of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, said the equity stake was “a vitally important deal” and a “game-changing move” for Etihad.

Once granted regulatory approval, Etihad Regional will be able connect passengers from secondary markets into Etihad Airways’ European network and into the hubs of the airline’s other equity partners.

Timed with the equity announcement, Etihad also revealed plans to start daily non-stop flights to Zurich where the flights will be able to connect into its new equity partner Darwin Airline/Etihad Regional’s network. Passengers will then be able to connect from Zurich to Leipzig, Florence, Graz, Linz, Lyon, Turin, and Verona as well as with a domestic connection to Geneva.

The Zurich route will commence from 1 June 2014.

Lugano-headquartered Darwin Airline is the seventh member of the Etihad Airways equity alliance. Other Etihad equity partners include airberlin and Air Seychelles.