Darwin Airline was established on 12 August 2003 and operations started on 28 July 2004. By October 2013 it had 220 employees.
On 25 November 2010, Darwin Airline announced its plans to take over some Baboo operating assets by early 2011. Under the plan, some parts of the combined airline would continue to be marketed under the Baboo name, while Darwin would be able to substantially expand their operations.
At the time of the merger, Baboo had returned its fleet of three leased Embraer E-190 to their lessors and only the remaining two Bombardier DHC-8-Q400 were transferred to Darwin Airline to be used on high-density routes as the 74-seater offered a substantial increase in seats compared to the Saab 2000. Later both DHC-8-Q400 were sold as they had too much capacity for the Darwin Airline's network.
On 2 September 2013, Darwin Airline opened a base at Cambridge with flights to Amsterdam, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Milan Malpensa and its Geneva base using Saab 2000 aircraft. These services were suspended in early 2014 due to low demand.
On 17 November 2013, Etihad Airways announced that it had bought a 33% stake in Darwin Airline. Following completion of the deal, Darwin will use the new brand name Etihad Regional but Darwin will continue to operate as normal and will operate flights for Etihad Regional and the new brand will have the subtitle "operated by Darwin Airline". The first Darwin aircraft featuring the Etihad Regional livery began operating between Lugano and Geneva on 17 January 2014; the airline announced that all ten of its Saab 2000 aircraft would be repainted in Etihad livery by the end of June 2014. Four ATR 72-500s leased to Etihad Regional will be also painted in the new livery as soon as they are delivered to the company.
In early 2014, Etihad Regional leased four ATR 72-500s from Nordic Aviation Capital to expand routes from Geneva.
From the end of March 2014, the airline withdrew its Ancona-Roma Fiumicino and Trapani-Roma Fiumicino routes, as a result of cabotage restrictions, which prevent Swiss aviation companies from operating domestic flights in the European Union. It was previously possible for Darwin Airline to fly these routes thanks to a derogation from the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, however, this was not renewed. In January 2014, Darwin Airline also withdrew its Aosta-Roma Fiumicino route even before it had commenced; a result of the same cabotage and the European Union's refusal to make an exception for a Swiss company.
In February 2014 Etihad Regional cancelled the planned routes from Berlin to Poznań and Wrocław, as well as the Zagreb-Rome route. By October 2014, several more destinations like Lyon, Turin, and Stuttgart were also cancelled. Additionally, services between Lugano and Zurich, which were flown on behalf of Swiss International Air Lines until 30 October 2014, were also terminated as Swiss cancelled the contract.
In January 2015, it was reported that Etihad Regional faced harsh competition from Swiss International Air Lines, however it was stated that Etihad had no plans to cancel the proposed purchase of a higher stake in Darwin Airline as suggested by some sources. However, by February 2015 the company cancelled further destinations like Linz and Toulouse and also announced they would lay off a fifth of its staff.
On 18 February 2015, Etihad Regional ceased two thirds of its scheduled routes without further notice, amongst them all services to Germany and several to France. The airline will continue to operate some of their domestic and European routes from Geneva and Lugano as well as the Italian domestic service from Bolzano to Rome while all services to and from Zürich were cancelled immediately except the domestic service to Geneva. Etihad Regional blamed competitors as well as the Swiss aviation authorities for their failed expansion.
On 11 March 2015, Darwin Airline confirmed it would start operating some of their Saab 2000s on behalf of Air Berlin, in which Etihad Airways also holds a stake, from April 2015. On 29 March 2015, it was also been announced that Darwin Airline will operate all of its four ATR72 on several domestic routes for Alitalia, in which Etihad Airways also holds a stake.
In November 2015, SkyWork Airlines announced the termination of their ACMI contract with Darwin by December 2015 due to crew shortage at Darwin. The operations on behalf of Air Berlin also ended by 30 April 2016, as Air Berlin started to operate two of the three routes itself while the third one ceased.
Formerly its head office was on the grounds of Lugano Airport in Agno, near Lugano.
As of November 2016, Darwin Airline serves the following destinations using the Etihad Regional brand:France
Biarritz – Biarritz – Anglet – Bayonne Airport seasonal
Cagliari – Cagliari Elmas Airport seasonal
Olbia – Costa Smeralda Airport seasonal
Rome – Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport
Ibiza – Ibiza Airport seasonal
Lugano – Lugano Airport base
Geneva – Geneva Airport base
Zürich – Zürich Airport
Catania – Catania–Fontanarossa Airport
Lampedusa - Lampedusa Airport
Pantelleria - Pantelleria Airport
Naples – Naples International Airport
Olbia – Costa Smeralda Airport seasonal
Palermo – Falcone–Borsellino Airport
Pisa – Pisa International Airport
Rome – Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport base
Trapani - Vincenzo Florio Airport Trapani–Birgi
Darwin Airline also maintains codeshare agreements with the following airlines:Air Berlin (between Geneva, Berlin and Düsseldorf)
Air Serbia (between Geneva and Belgrade)
Alitalia (between Geneva and Rome)
Etihad Airways (between Geneva, Abu Dhabi, Mahé, Bangkok, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur)
As of January 2017, the Darwin Airline fleet includes the following aircraft: