A few years ago, Etihad Airways was an upstart. Sure, it has grown at least 40% each year since its 2003 birth, but that trend can’t be sustained with the economy the way it is now. Right?
The Abu Dhabi-based carrier is adding destinations to its roster rapidly. New routes include Beijing, China and Melbourne, Australia. In the US, it is only possible to catch an Etihad flight out of JFK. But, that may soon be about to change. Etihad has signed two major deals this year, one is a 45-plane order with Boeing and the other a mammoth 51-plane order with Airbus. These will mean that the Etihad fleet will be growing by more than 300% in the coming years. No matter how you look at it, the numbers in those orders are almost ridiculously ambitious, especially considering that most airlines are now doing everything they can to save money rather than spend it.
It seems that Etihad is hell bent on overtaking Emirates as the best known brand to come out of the Persian Gulf.
Etihad Airways has announced that it is on track to save $20 million this year because of the success of its fuel-saving techniques. The airline has taken steps to reduce weight and improve engine performance by increasing the number of engine washes and reducing cruising speeds.
The fuel-saving strategy is not a last desperate attempt to stay in business. Etihad has been wildly successful over the past year. In the first half of 2008, it saw an unprecedented 41% increase in the number of passengers when compared to the same period in 2007. The airline has recently added routes to China and plans to expand further in to Europe and North America.
The Abu Dhabi-based carrier has added new routes and is planning on expanding its fleet by more than 100 aircraft in the near future. However, a slowing world economy and a projected drop in the number of passengers flying into and out of the Middle East might put a damper on Etihad’s ambitious growth plans.