WITH a new chief executive firmly in the pilot's seat, Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways is to increase its flying programme this summer by 18 per cent.
New routes will be launched by the national airline of the UAE, existing services augmented and six new wide-body long haul jets will be introduced to boost the airline's expanding global network.
Non-stop flights from the carrier's Abu Dhabi base will take off in March for the first time to Sydney in Australia, to Dublin in August, and to Milan's Malpensa airport in September.
Etihad's summer flying programme will be boosted with an additional 40 weekly flights added to its current schedule from Abu Dhabi to the Indian subcontinent (six extra), the Middle East and GCC (15 extra), Europe (five extra), the Far East (eight more) and Africa (six more), bringing its total up to 258 services a week.
Four new three class Airbus A330 jets and two new three class Airbus A340-600 aircraft will join the airline's growing fleet throughout the summer months to cope with demand.
Shaikh Ahmed Bin Saif Al Nayhan, Etihad Airways' chairman, said: “These are exciting times for both Etihad and Abu Dhabi. No long haul airline has grown as quickly from conception as we have – and we're not going to stop here. We have more aircraft deliveries later this year and are actively pursuing further opportunities for the winter.”
James Hogan, the airline's chief executive, added: “But running a successful airline isn't just about buying planes and flying to new cities. The board of directors has now endorsed the company’s development plan for the next three years and the summer flight programme shows us continuing to develop the business on commercial principles. We've switched flight timings to offer better connections at Abu Dhabi for our customers and introduced extra frequencies on existing routes. This makes us, again, more attractive to the flying public and more viable as a business.”
He said the airline would work harder to address its cost base, its financial well-being, its brand, its future fleet plans and its service, both in the air and on ground.
Meanwhile reports for 2006 show the airline's passenger numbers shot up by 150 per cent from 1.2 million in 2005 to around three million last year.
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