Etihad Airways has reported it flew more than six million passengers in 2008, a 34 per cent rise on 2007.
The growth during 2008, Etihad’s fifth year of operations, saw passenger numbers total 6,021,931 and the average seat factor rise from 68 per cent to 75 per cent. The airline has also taken delivery of nine new aircraft boosting its fleet to a total of 42.
Etihad launched six new routes in 2008 - Beijing, Minsk, Almaty, Kozhikode, Chennai and Moscow - as well as signing a record order of US$43 billion at the Farnborough International Airshow for up to 205 Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
The national carrier of the UAE also scooped “World’s Leading First Class Airline’ at the World Travel Awards Grand Final last month.
Capping a hugely successful year, a record 20,937 passengers flew with Etihad on 19 December making it the airline’s busiest day.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Despite the impact of the global economic downturn, Etihad performed extremely well in 2008 and we hit our target of flying more than six million passengers during the year.
“Etihad now has a flight network of 50 global destinations, with an average seat factor of 75 per cent, which is an impressive achievement in just five years of operations. It is also pleasing to note Etihad’s pivotal role in the growth of Abu Dhabi as the emirate becomes a global capital for business and tourism.”
All of Etihad’s passenger cabins experienced significant seat factor growth during 2008. The airline achieved average seat factors in its economy cabin of 77 per cent with flights to the Asia-Pacific region rising to 84 per cent.
Average seat factors in business class rose to 63 per cent during 2008 with flights to European destinations averaging seat factors of 73 per cent.
Mr Hogan added: “It’s important to acknowledge the support and close cooperation Etihad continues to receive from Abu Dhabi Airports Company and the Department of Transport in achieving these fantastic figures.”
Etihad strengthened its sponsorship programme in 2008 with announcements of major deals with the Ferrari Formula 1 team, the All Ireland Hurling Championships and the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which starts in 2009.
Etihad also announced that from March 2009 the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, which has a capacity of 55,000, will be re-named the Etihad Stadium.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline also increased its number of employees to more than 7,000 staff, with the majority living and working in Abu Dhabi representing 121 different nationalities, including more than 2,900 cabin crew and 755 pilots.