BY JAMES WILKINSON
Etihad Airways has spent USD$2.8 billion on additional aircraft to support demand for new routes and capacity across the globe.
Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, expatriate Australian James Hogan, said the order for 10 more Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners would take the airline’s total to 41 787s, making the Abu-Dhabi carrier the largest aircraft operator of the type in the world.
“Our decision to expand our Dreamliner fleet is testimony to Etihad’s commitment to operating one of the youngest and most fuel efficient fleets in the skies,” he said.
“It also reflects our confidence in the 787’s ability to have a significant impact on our operating efficiencies and the passenger experience we can offer onboard this revolutionary aircraft,” he said.
Etihad, which operates flights to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and has a partnership with Virgin Australia in place, plans to operate the 787s initially on flights to Dublin, Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Nagoya, Delhi and Istanbul.
“We saw an opportunity to add further certainty to our growth profile in the mid to late part of the decade (and) the Dreamliner is a wonderful aircraft which will provide a great experience for our guests,” Hogan said.
In related news, Etihad Airways has increased its stake in German Airline airberlin to 29% in a move that is set to boost outbound and inbound travel from Australia and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.
At the same time as the shareholding announcement, airberlin announced plans to launch flights from Berlin to Abu Dhabi from January 15, 2012 in a move that the airline’s CEO Hartmut Mehdorn said would give the carrier access to Etihad’s growing markets such as Sydney.
“The strategic partnership with Etihad Airways opens up enormous opportunities for the future of our company,” Mehdorn said.
“One of the key components of the new partnership is the launch of airberlin services to Abu Dhabi, which will become our new gateway to Asia and Australia.
“The agreement with Etihad Airways will also dramatically improve the global connectivity of our customers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and throughout the GCC and Middle East,” he said.
Hogan said the airberlin deal was one of the most significant in the airline’s history.
“This new partnership expands our network reach, gives us access to 33 million new passengers, and provides us with a real opportunity for global growth,” he said. “Through airberlin, we gain immediate access to a broad and complementary European market, with outstanding connectivity options for customers of both airlines.”
“Our partnership strategy has been integral to our success over the past eight years, and the returns we have seen from this strategy have confirmed its value.
“We are always looking for ways to grow and partnerships are a smart way to enhance our ability to compete on the world stage.
“We now have a portfolio of 34 quality airline partners, but this is our first equity investment in another airline. It is a sign of our confidence in airberlin’s management and in the carrier’s potential to grow with us,” he said.