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Sun 21 Sep 2008 11:12 AM

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Etihad unveils ambitious growth targets

Abu Dhabi carrier to carry 25mn passengers annually, double route network by 2020.

Etihad Airways has unveiled ambitious growth targets that include quadrupling passenger traffic anddoubling the number of destinations it serves by 2020 in the face of a growing downturn in the airline industry.

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier said Sunday it plans to carry 25 million passengers a year by 2020, up from projected passenger traffic of six million this year, as it expands its route network to 100 cities. Etihad said will also boost its workforce to 27,000 people by 2020, up from 6,600 currently.

CEO James Hogan said the projections reflect "the scale of our ambitions" and were "closely aligned to the growth of Abu Dhabi as an economic and tourism powerhouse”.

Etihad in July placed an order for up to 205 wide-body and narrow-body planes is worth approximately $43 billion, one of the largest in commercial aviation history.

The deal comprises 100 firm orders, 55 options and 50 purchase rights in a combination of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Etihad enjoyed its busiest summer period in its four year history this year, with more than 1.6 million passengers flying during the months of June, July and August.

However the airline's growth plans could be hit by the slowdown in the airline industry, which has been hit hard by soaring oil prices.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted earlier this month that Middle Eastern airlines will post a 33 percent drop in profits this year to $200 million, and the global business environment will remain difficult in 2009.

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