By Jo Anne Bladd
Abu Dhabi carrier is ‘happy to fill the gap’ as Aussie airline moves to axe global routes
Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier, is aiming to step into the void when route cuts in Australian airline Qantas’ international operations take effect, CEO James Hogan has said.
Qantas is expected to axe its money-losing routes to Los Angeles and New York as it struggles to overhaul its international routes and stem losses of around AUD$200m ($208m).
Industry rumours also suggest routes to Buenos Aires, Honolulu and Mumbai may be cut, while no-frills subsidiary Jetstar may take over operation of some US and European flights.
''They [Qantas] don't have the network they had of 15 years ago,'' Etihad CEO James Hogan, told The Age newspaper during a visit to Australia last week.
''As Qantas starts restructuring their network, it presents even further opportunities for us to strengthen our foothold in the market. If they [Qantas] do dilute or marginalise their international flying that's a great opportunity for us … and we're happy to fill the gap.''
Qantas has refused to divulge details of its strategic review ahead of an announcement on August 24.
Etihad, one of the Gulf’s largest airlines, has rolled out ambitious expansion plans in a bid to increase its share of lucrative long-haul traffic. The carrier last month rolled out nationwide marketing campaign in Australia, urging travellers to “change to the best”.
It follows a tie-up with the country's number two airline Virgin Blue which was given the green light by Australia's competition watchdog in February.
Speaking during a lecture at Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney last week, Hogan said aviation was the “absolute lifeblood” of the UAE’s future economic prospects.
"Because of this, the emirates and their airlines are deadly serious about success in this sector,” he said.
Etihad Airways said last week it has seen no softening in passenger numbers since Europe's debt crisis and US economic problems hit global markets and expects to break even this year.
Hogan said Etihad still expected to break even in 2011 and said he had seen no evidence fewer people were flying in recent weeks amid fears about another global economic downturn.
"We have not seen a slowdown," Hogan said. "Our European traffic is strong ... our traffic out of markets like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia coming up the Gulf is very strong as is our North American business."
Etihad has a fleet of 57 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and 100 aircraft on order, including 10 Airbus A380s.
In July, Etihad posted a 28 percent rise in revenue to $1.72bn for six months to June 30. Passenger numbers rose 14 percent to 3.8 million.
Best wishes to Etihad. QANTAS is an irrelevant airline. The UAE sends over 130 flights a week to Australia and QANTAS, which is the flag ship carrier does not send one up here. One day the management of QANTAS will look at the Australian demographic and determine that a large proportion of the Gulf not only originates in Asia and the UK but also the Gulf and Levant area as well.