Etihad Airways continues to enjoy a record-breaking 2008 with its latest passenger figures for the first six months flying high with a 41 per cent rise on the same period last year.
The airline is on track to achieve its target of carrying six million passengers by the end of the year.
Highlights of the first half year results show that the Abu Dhabi-based airline carried 2.8 million passengers during the first six months of 2008, compared to nearly two million for the same period in 2007.
And Etihad also witnessed the busiest day in its four year history on Friday, June 29, with a record-breaking 19,709 customers flown across the airline’s network at a seat factor of 85 per cent.
The airline achieved average seat factors of 73 per cent across its network of 45 destinations between January 1 and June 30.
Year-on-year this represents an increase in seat factor of nine percentage points and comes as Etihad continues to expand its global flying programme and add aircraft to a fleet that will grow from its current 37 to 45 by the end of 2008. In the second half of the year the airline will introduce non-stop flights from its Abu Dhabi base to five new destinations.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Etihad’s performance during the first six months of 2008 has been extremely strong against a well documented backdrop of higher fuel prices and economic slow-down in parts of Europe and the Americas.
“Despite these significant challenges faced by many airlines, Etihad is not seeing any signs of a decline in demand in any of our markets or any of our cabins. Indeed our forward bookings are currently well ahead of expectations and we anticipate another very busy summer.”
Etihad’s continued growth is supported by recent figures published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which said that Middle Eastern airlines saw an 11 per cent increase in demand during the last 12 months.
According to IATA, the growth in Middle Eastern traffic is attributable to a number of factors which include the region’s booming economy, the aggressive development of the tourism industry and additional airport and airline capacity.
Etihad has launched one new destination so far in 2008, starting flights to Beijing in March. In August, the airline will also begin flying to Kozhikode (Calicut) and Chennai (Madras), after securing flying rights earlier this year.
Etihad will also become the first airline in the Gulf to fly to Belarus, when it launches service to the capital city Minsk on 5 August 2008.
The airline plans to fly to Moscow and the Kazakh city of Almaty in December 2008. Etihad will also boost its flying programme to Australia at the end of October 2008, by increasing its existing daily service to Sydney to 11 flights per week. The same month will also see Etihad add a third daily flight to London Heathrow.
All Etihad’s cabins experienced increased seat factors compared to the same period in 2007 during the first six months of 2008.
Etihad’s Asia-Pacific services turned in a particularly strong performance with overall seat factors averaging 81 per cent across the region.
Passenger loads in the economy cabin averaged 83 per cent, led by Bangkok, Sydney, Manila and Jakarta, which all enjoyed seat factors of more than 85 per cent.
Within Europe, services to Brussels, Dublin, Manchester and Paris all achieved average seat factors of more than 80 per cent in economy, with London Heathrow and Munich exceeding loads of 75 per cent in business class.
Routes in the Middle East which performed well during the first half of the year include Amman and Damascus, achieving overall average seat factors of 81 and 77 per cent, respectively. Demand was particularly strong in the economy cabin, with both routes achieving seat factors in excess of 80 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian capital of Cairo remains the airline’s most popular African route, achieving an overall seat factor of 80 per cent.
Mr Hogan added: “As ever, we are grateful for the support we continue to receive from Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Abu Dhabi Airport Services and the Department of Transport, whose close cooperation has paved the way for Etihad to extend its global network still further, with the launch of new services to India, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in the coming months.”
The first half of 2008 has also witnessed a record performance from Etihad’s cargo division.
During this period Etihad Crystal Cargo carried more than 127,000 global shipments, an increase of 22 per cent compared to the first six months of 2007. These shipments had a combined weight of more than 100,000 tonnes.
Etihad Holidays has also enjoyed a successful first half of 2008 and following the launch of two hugely popular holiday shops in Al Wahda Mall and Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi the division has increased its revenue by more than 140 per cent, compared to the same period in 2007.