Etihad Airways expects its revenues to rise to $3.1 billon (Dh11.3bn) this year with an addition of 11 new aircraft to its fleet, compared to $2.5bn in 2008 despite the current global slowdown, said its top executive.
Addressing the Aviation Outlook Middle East 2009 summit in the capital, Etihad's CEO James Hogan said the delivery of more than 100 aircraft started in 2008 and is still continuing.
"The airline will be flying 25 million passengers to about 100 major business and leisure destinations, and will have a fleet of 152 aircraft by 2020, without exercising options or purchase rights," he said.
Hogan said the delivery of 10 Airbus A330s, ordered in June 2007, started in January this year. He also said the airline will have 60 more aircraft added to its 152-strong fleet beyond 2020, with the delivery of 35 Boeing 787s starting from 2015 and 25 A350s from 2017. By the end of 2009, he said, the fleet strength will be 53.
Elaborating on the airline's performance in 2008, Hogan said: "Etihad flew over six million passengers in 2008 and had nine new aircraft added to its fleet. We also added new destinations – Beijing, Moscow, Almaty, Chennai, and Kozhikode — last year, with year-on-year increase of 31 per cent and seat factor up by eight per cent."
Etihad, according to Hogan, is also planning to add new routes this year, including Melbourne, Athens, Istanbul, Chicago, Larnaca and Hyderabad, and will sign code-sharing agreements with some airlines such as Aer Arana, Bangkok Airways and Kuwait Airways.
"We also plan to increase frequencies to Amman, Beirut, Brussels, Cairo, Geneva, Manila, Milan and Moscow, and our expansion will be supported by 11 new aircraft deliveries this year," he said.
Meanwhile, 2009 is a tough year for Etihad, Hogan said, adding that 2010 will be even tougher, putting Etihad and other airlines under pressure. "There are risks – there is a global recession and we are seeing weakening currencies, softening demand worldwide and volatile oil prices," he said.
"No business and no airline is immune to it. Thousands of jobs have been slashed in the airlines industry across the globe, such as at Lufthansa, Virgin and British Airways. And airlines like Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa are cutting capacity and routes," he said.
Responding to reports about Etihad planning stakes in some airlines, Hogan said: "No, we are not looking at equity. Our strategy is to build our own airline business, with hotels and other divisions, such as the holidays division."
Hogan said infrastructure development was going on, and a dedicated terminal (Terminal 3) is operational at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
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