By Andy Sambidge
Ab Dhabi carrier says it is on course to fly six million passengers by end of the year.
Etihad Airways has recorded a 35 per cent rise in the number of passengers in the first nine months of the year, compared to the same period last year.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline carried 4.4 million passengers across its network of current 48 destinations, compared to 3.3 million for the same period in 2007 between January and September.
Boosted by its busiest ever summer, Etihad Airways is set to exceed its target of six million passengers by the end of the year, which will also see its global network grow to a 50 destinations and its aircraft fleet grow from 38 to 42 aircraft.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive, said: “Despite current market conditions and against an industry backdrop that remains extremely challenging, the performance of our airline during the first nine months of this year was impressive.
“The significant investment we have put into our product and service this year is paying rich dividends and we remain well on track to achieve our target of flying six million passengers by the end of the year.”
All Etihad’s cabins experienced increased seat factors (percentage of filled seat on an aircraft) compared to the same period in 2007 during the first nine months of 2008.
Etihad’s services to Asia and Australia turned in a particularly strong performance with overall seat factors averaging 82 per cent across the region.
Passenger loads in the economy cabin averaged 84 percent, led by Manila (94 percent), Jakarta (90 percent), Sydney (87 percent) and Bangkok (83 percent).
Within Europe, flights to Dublin, Brussels, Manchester and Paris all achieved average seat factors of more than 80 per cent in economy.
Middle East routes which performed well during the first nine months of the year included Amman and Damascus and both achieved overall average seat factors of 78 percent.
The Egyptian capital of Cairo remains the airline’s most popular African route, which achieved an overall seat factor of 80 percent.
Hogan added: “The growth of Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi are inextricably linked and it would be amiss of me not to acknowledge the huge support we continue to receive from Abu Dhabi Airports Company, Abu Dhabi Airport Services and the Department of Transport to help us deliver such an impressive performance so far in 2008.“
The first nine months of 2008 also witnessed a record performance from Etihad Crystal Cargo.
During the period, the airline’s cargo division carried more than 198,000 global shipments, an increase of 23 per cent compared to the first nine months of 2007. These shipments had a combined weight of more than 150,000 tonnes.
Meanwhile, Etihad Airways has set its sights on flying 25 million passengers a year and doubling the number of cities served from 50 to 100 by 2020.