Etihad sets new passenger record

Etihad Airways continues to set new records in 2008 with its latest passenger figures for the first nine months, showing a 35 per cent rise on the same period last year.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline carried 4.4 million passengers across its network of current 48 destinations, compared to 3.3 million for the same period in 2007 between 1 January and 30 September. Seat factors in the same period averaged of 75 per cent, representing a year-on-year increase of seven per cent.Boosted by its busiest ever summer, Etihad Airways is set to exceed its target of six million passengers by the end of an impressive year, which will also see its global network grow to a half century of destinations and its aircraft fleet grow from 38 to 42 aircraft.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Despite current market conditions and against an industry backdrop that remains extremely challenging, the performance of our airline during the first nine months of this year was impressive.

“The significant investment we have put into our product and service this year is paying rich dividends and we remain well on track to achieve our target of flying six million passengers by the end of the year.”

All Etihad’s cabins experienced increased seat factors compared to the same period in 2007 during the first nine months of 2008.

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Etihad’s services to Asia and Australia turned in a particularly strong performance with overall seat factors averaging 82 per cent across the region. Passenger loads in the economy cabin averaged 84 per cent, led by Manila (94 per cent), Jakarta (90 per cent), Sydney (87 per cent) and Bangkok (83 per cent).

Within Europe, flights to Dublin, Brussels, Manchester and Paris all achieved average seat factors of more than 80 per cent in economy.

Middle East routes which performed well during the first nine months of the year included Amman and Damascus and both achieved overall average seat factors of 78 per cent. The Egyptian capital of Cairo remains the airline’s most popular African route, which achieved an overall seat factor of 80 per cent.

Average seat factors in Etihad’s business cabin rose seven percentage points to 63 per cent during the first nine months of 2008. The best performing business routes during the period were Toronto (85 per cent), New York (81 per cent) and London (79 per cent).

The nine month performance was boosted by a record-breaking summer period, with more than 1.6 million passengers flying onboard the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s flights during the three months of June, July and August. A record 20,721 passengers flew with Etihad on Friday 1 August making it the airline’s busiest day in its near five year history.

Etihad has launched four new destinations so far in 2008, starting flights to Beijing, the Indian cities of Kozikhode (Calicut) and Chennai (Madras) as well as Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The airline will launch in December non-stop flights from its Abu Dhabi base to Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Russian capital, Moscow. Etihad will also start flying in early March 2009 to Melbourne in Australia and Lagos in Nigeria.

The first nine months of 2008 also witnessed a record performance from Etihad Crystal Cargo. During the period, the airline’s cargo division carried more than 198,000 global shipments, an increase of 23 per cent compared to the first nine months of 2007. These shipments had a combined weight of more than 150,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways has set its sights on flying 25 million passengers a year and doubling the number of cities served from 50 to 100 by 2020.

In addition to the flight network growth, which supports the order of 100 Airbus and Boeing aircraft that was made at this year’s Farnborough air show in the UK, Etihad’s workforce could also grow to 27,000 people by 2020, from its current 6,600, with most of the jobs based in Abu Dhabi.
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