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Etihad Airways has reported a 67 per cent rise in passenger turnout in 2007 over the previous year.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline flew more than 4.6 million passengers during 2007 compared to 2.8 million in 2006.
During the 12 month period, the airline achieved seat factors averaging 69 per cent across its network of 45 destinations, its highest ever achievement, said an official press release.
The airline boosted its fleet by 13 aircraft to a total of 37, launched nine new destinations and expanded its flying programme with additional frequencies added to a number of its key routes.
"Our activity in 2007 witnessed another year of expansion for Etihad. The story has been one of both quantity and quality, with record passenger numbers and seat factors together with growing recognition for the quality of Etihad's services as witnessed by a number of top industry awards, Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan said in a statement.
All of Etihad's passenger cabins experienced significant seat factor growth during 2007. The airline achieved average seat factors in its economy cabin of 71 per cent, with flights more than 80 per cent full on average on the airline's Dublin, Toronto, Jakarta, Manila, Kathmandu and Lahore services.
Average seat factors in business class rose to 61 per cent during 2007, a year-on-year increase of 46 per cent.
The strongest performing business routes during the 12-month period were Toronto, London Heathrow, Sydney and Geneva.
The most impressive seat factor growth last year was in first class where average seat factors increased by 75 per cent compared to 2006.
Hogan said: "Early indications are that 2008 will be another strong year for Etihad, with the first few days of the new year seeing the airline enjoy record-breaking passenger numbers across the network.
"This year promises to be as exciting as the last, with key highlights including the launch of our first flights to China and the airline's move to a new, dedicated airport terminal at our home base Abu Dhabi."
Routes in the Middle East which performed particularly well during 2007 include Damascus and Amman, achieving average seat factors of 71 and 72 per cent, respectively.
Services to the Indian subcontinent once again experienced particularly strong demand, with average seat factors in economy on Dhaka, Islamabad and Lahore routes of more than 80 per cent.
Etihad's recently launched destination, Kathmandu, has quickly established itself as one of the airline's most popular - achieving an overall average seat factor of 80 per cent since October 2007.
The airline's holiday division, Etihad Holidays, increased its sales by 63 per cent in the last year.
New destinations added this year include Brisbane, the Australian Gold Coast and Singapore.
Etihad's cargo division, Crystal Cargo, also continued to expand rapidly during 2007 with the number of cargo shipments handled up more than 43 per cent compared to 2006. In the 12-month period, the amount of cargo tonnes transported increased more than 32 per cent to 175,000 tonnes. The division also increased main deck cargo capacity, adding an MD11 freighter aircraft to its fleet during the year.
FLEET EXPANSION TALKS
Etihad Airways will conclude talks with Airbus and Boeing in the middle of 2008 for aircraft purchases as the airline expands its operations, Hogan said.
"We're in talks with Airbus and Boeing for aircraft purchases to meet our needs until 2020," he said on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai. He did not disclose details of Etihad's requirements.
Hogan said the airline does not have any plans for financing at the moment. "Everything is in place for now."
Etihad in November secured $398 million (Dh1.46 billion) in financing facilities for the acquisition of three Airbus A340-600 wide-body aircraft. The facilities were part of several financing deals arranged by Etihad last year, aggregating to nearly $1.4bn.
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