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Mon 18 Feb 2008 10:25 AM

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Gulf travel soars above global slowdown

Etihad expect 30% increase in passengers over 2008 on strong regional demand.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways expects to carry 30% more passengers this year and said strong demand in the Middle East would help it withstand any drop in global travel on the back of a economic slowdown.

"The slowdown is hitting the US and European carriers, but investments in Abu Dhabi over the next 6 years is 170 billion euros, so that brings huge activity from India, Southeast Asia," Etihad Airways Chief Executive James Hogan told newswire Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"We're probably in a better shape than most airlines in the world," said Hogan, who expects the four-year-old airline will break even by 2010.

The carrier, which has a fleet of 37 planes and another 19 due for delivery by 2011, expects to announce this year an order for 50 widebody and narrowbody aircraft from Airbus or Boeing.

"We're still going through the process and once we agree with the board and the government, then we make an announcement," Hogan said on the sidelines of an aviation conference. (Reuters)

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