Abu Dhabi - Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has announced its strongest ever passenger and cargo volumes for a first quarter, together with US$1.4 billion in total revenues during the three-month period, marking a year-on-year increase of 27 per cent.
A total of 3.2 million passengers travelled with Etihad Airways during the first quarter of 2014, over 14 per cent higher than the 2.8 million passengers from the same period last year.
The growth rate is more than double a recent estimate from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that passenger demand will increase 5.8 per cent this year on a global basis.
Etihad Cargo also outperformed the global market, carrying 127,821 tonnes of freight and mail in the first quarter. This marks a year-on-year increase of 26 per cent, almost seven times higher than IATA’s prediction that the international cargo market will grow by four per cent in 2014.
The airline’s cargo revenue also increased by 26 per cent to US$243 million, placing Etihad Cargo on track to become a billion dollar business in 2014. Etihad Airways’ volumes were boosted by the fast-paced growth of its international route network, with 95 destinations operational by the end of Q1 2014, an increase of six compared to the same period in 2013.
Network highlights in the first quarter included the start of a daily service to Medina, Etihad Airways’ fourth destination in Saudi Arabia, while frequencies increased on six existing routes, including New York in the US, Munich in Germany, Colombo in Sri Lanka, and Chengdu in China.
The airline will commence services to eight more destinations over the remainder of 2014, increasing its global route network to 103 by the end of the year. Organic growth was supported by the development of codeshare and equity partnerships, which delivered 678,000 passengers onto Etihad Airways flights in the first quarter of 2014, 25 per cent higher than the same period last year. Revenue from codeshare and equity partners rose 23 per cent to US$223 million, representing 22 per cent of total revenue in the quarter.
During this period, new codeshare agreements were signed with Air Europa and JetBlue, while an existing codeshare with airBaltic was expanded. Etihad Airways also obtained regulatory approval to acquire a 49 per cent share of Air Serbia.
To accommodate the double-digit growth in passenger volumes, Etihad Airways’ fleet expanded to 95 aircraft in the first quarter of 2014, marking an increase of 30 per cent in the fleet size over the same period last year, while the airline’s passenger carrying capacity, measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASK), increased by 21 per cent year-on-year to 19.2 billion.
A number of factors contributed to the rapid growth of Etihad Cargo’s revenues in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2013, including stellar performances in the India (+32 per cent) and China (+14 per cent) markets, the launch of new routes to Brazil and Vietnam, and heavy demand for charter solutions.
Cargo volumes were also strengthened by the launch of a joint freighter service with DHL, serving Pakistan and the GCC markets out of Abu Dhabi. At the close of the first quarter, Etihad Airways employed 18,543 employees, an increase of 69 per cent year-on-year.
Part of this significant increase can be attributed to Etihad Airways’ acquisition of Abu Dhabi Airport Services (ADAS), Abu Dhabi In-Flight Catering (ADIFC) and Abu Dhabi Cargo Company (ADCC) in 2013.
Within the core airline, 1,516 employees are UAE nationals, 18 per cent more than the same period last year. The Etihad Airways Emiratisation program includes schemes for cadet pilots, engineers and graduate managers.