How has 2007 fared for Etihad?
Now four years old, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates is an established player on the global aviation map.
The year 2007 has been one of significant expansion, with growth of the airline’s route network, aircraft fleet, passenger figures and number of employees.
The airline currently boasts a fleet of 34 aircraft flying to 45 destinations across the Middle East, Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. The awards that Etihad has picked up in 2007 are further evidence of the strength of the airline’s product and the service it offers to its customers.
Etihad Airways carried more than 4.5 million passengers in 2007, with average seat factors of more than 68 per cent.
Nine new routes were added to the airline’s global network during 2007: Sydney, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Milan, Dublin and Kathmandu.
The airline has boosted its number of weekly flights from 556 to 718 as part of an expanded winter schedule introduced at the end of October 2007. This 29 per cent increase in flights, compared to the previous winter, has improved access to 16 routes across Etihad’s global network, including Bahrain, where services have doubled from 14 to 28 flights a week and Muscat, where they have trebled from seven to 21 flights a week.
Etihad Airways continued to expand its aircraft fleet during 2007 and it remains one of the youngest passenger fleets in the world with an average age of 2.2 years. Its wide-bodied fleet, including three freighter aircraft, now comprises 33 aircraft with the delivery of a further Airbus A340-600 aircraft in December 2007. Etihad introduced its first narrow-bodied Airbus A320 aircraft in September 2007, growing to four by the end of 2007.
The airline’s Etihad Guest loyalty programme, launched in August 2006, continues to go from strength to strength and now has a quarter of a million members.
What is the company’s strategy in the face of competition?
Etihad Airways won several awards in 2007, including ‘Leading Airline’ for the Middle East and Africa as well as ‘Leading First Class’ at this year’s World Travel Awards. The airline was also recognised in the Skytrax 2007 global survey with the award for best economy class food.
The airline announced two major sponsorship deals in 2007 with major UK sporting teams. In July, Etihad was named the main sponsor of English premiership rugby union team, Harlequins. In September, the airline became a platinum sponsor and the official international airline partner of Barclays Premiership side Chelsea Football Club.
The airline’s holiday division, Etihad Holidays, has increased its sales by 46 per cent in the last year. New destinations added this year in to its growing portfolio include Brisbane, the Australian Gold Coast and Singapore.
What are the company’s plans for 2008? (New routes and fleet expansion)
Etihad has much to look forward to in 2008 and certainly won’t be resting on its laurels.
It will launch four times a week flights from its Abu Dhabi home base to the Chinese capital of Beijing on 30 March 2008. This will be the airline’s first destination in China and the eighth in the Asia Pacific region, which already includes services to Brisbane, Sydney, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok.
This year there will be a renewed focus on customer service, with a series of initiatives being worked on now which the airline will roll out progressively throughout the year.
Etihad will replace its existing premium lounge at Abu Dhabi airport’s Terminal 1 with a new, bigger state-of-the-art facility early in the New Year. Several elements of the terminal one lounge will be incorporated into Etihad’s brand new terminal three lounge, due to open in the spring, when the airline moves to a new, dedicated passenger terminal at Abu Dhabi airport.
Etihad will also relocate its Abu Dhabi headquarters to new, purpose-built offices, close to the airport and complete with state-of-the-art training facilities for its flying crew.
What can travellers look forward to in the New Year?
Etihad will continue to look at opportunities to expand its network of global destinations. Subject to permission from the Indian government, the airline is also keen to expand its flying programme to the Indian sub-continent, and has already identified cities such as Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore among its preferred destinations.
The airline remains committed to increasing the profile of Abu Dhabi and also act as a catalyst to develop further Abu Dhabi airport as a bridge between Europe, Asia, America and the Middle East. The key – as witnessed by its recently launched winter schedule - is to increase potential flight connections across the network as well as offering more frequencies.
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