Etihad Airways has announced plans to increase its passenger numbers by 15% in 2009 to a total of seven million.
The airline will expand its global flight network to 55 destinations during the year as well as grow its fleet to more than 50 aircraft. A total of 900 weekly Etihad flights will operate this summer, a 20% rise on the 750 weekly flights which operated during the same season in 2008.Eleven new passenger aircraft are set to join Etihad’s fleet in 2009 which will enable it to launch new services to Melbourne, Istanbul, Athens, Larnaca and Chicago, as well as increase frequencies on many existing routes across its network of international destinations.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “The aviation industry is facing its toughest challenge for many years as a result of the current global economic crisis but Etihad Airways will seek to continue its expansion plans during 2009 in a measured, considered and controlled manner.”
The additional aircraft will increase Etihad’s seat capacity by 18% and cargo capacity by 12% to 3.5 million tonnes.
Currently Etihad has a fleet of 44 narrow and wide-body aircraft which will rise to 52 by the end of 2009.
Etihad achieved more than US$2.5 billion in revenues in 2008 and is targeting US$3 billion in 2009, an increase of 20%. The airline was also voted “World’s Leading First Class” at the 2009 World Travel Awards.
James Hogan said: “The new aircraft arrivals will boost our fleet by a quarter and allow us to launch flights to five new destinations as well as build depth and frequency into our existing network.
“We have an excellent award-winning product in all three aircraft cabins, and will target an average seat factor of 77 per cent, to help us achieve our ambitious plans to fly seven million passengers during the year.
“Although we will watch our costs very carefully we will not cut back on customer service nor will we compromise whatsoever on safety, the absolute bedrock of our business.”
Etihad has a workforce of 7,300 and plans to recruit a further 1,000 employees during the year, bringing total staff numbers to 8,500, an increase of 15%.
Etihad launches daily non-stop flights from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne in Australia. The introduction of flights in June to Istanbul, Athens and Larnaca, as well as increases in frequency to Brussels, Geneva, Milan and Moscow, means that Etihad will offer its customers a choice of 98 weekly flights into 14 European countries.
Etihad will also strengthen its North American network later this year with the launch of flights to Chicago’s O’Hare airport on 2 September, which will become a daily non-stop operation from 1 October.
The airline’s Middle Eastern network will be strengthened further from 29 March, with Abu Dhabi to Amman services increasing from 10 to 14 flights per week.
Services to Beirut will also increase to two flights a day from the current 11 flights per week and Doha will receive a boost from three to four flights a day.
Etihad’s flights from Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur will increase from six flights a week to daily beginning on 29 March.
The opening of the new Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi airport will continue to enhance the experience for Etihad Airways customers and allow the airline to expand and meet its future growth projections.
Mr Hogan said: “This year will be a tough one for everyone in the airline industry but because of Etihad’s investment in its product, fleet and home-base airport as well as the development in Abu Dhabi - we are confident that we can continue our impressive growth.”