UAE's Etihad Airways flew more than six million passengers in 2008, a 34 per cent jump 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 USD $43 billion at the Farnborough International Airshow for up to 205 Airbus and Boeing aircraft. A record 20,937 passengers flew with Etihad on Friday 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.
Etihad’s Emiratisation schemes continued to develop during 2008 with the number of graduate managers, cadet pilots and technical engineers rising to a total of 122 UAE nationals.
Mr Hogan said: “With Etihad’s incredible growth set to continue it is crucial that we develop our multi-talented, multi-cultural workforce with strong Emirati representation.”
The airline won 17 global awards for service and innovation during 2008. The highlights included winning the “airline of the year” at the Aviation Business, Arabian Business and British Travel Awards.
Etihad announced new codeshare agreements with Jet Airways, Yemen Airways, Saudi Arabia Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines in 2008 taking the total number of partners to nine airlines.
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.
The airline’s holiday division, Etihad Holidays, increased its revenue by more than 100 per cent compared to 2007. Contributing to the growth was the opening of three Etihad Holidays shops in Al Wahda Mall, Khalidiya Mall and Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi as well as the continued success of promotional sales campaigns throughout the year.
Etihad’s cargo division, Crystal Cargo, also continued to expand rapidly during 2008 with the number of cargo shipments handled up more than 19 per cent compared to 2007. In the 12 month period, the amount of cargo tonnes transported increased more than 16 per cent to 202,430 tonnes. The record for maximum uplift on a single day was 1,054 tonnes on 16 April.
One of the key highlights of 2008 for Etihad Crystal Cargo was shipping more than 180 Pablo Picasso masterpieces from Paris to Abu Dhabi for the world renowned artist’s exhibition in the UAE’s capital city.