Etihad Airways continued its industry-leading growth in the first quarter of 2012, with a 28% rise in revenue to USD 989 million over the corresponding period in 2011 and passenger numbers soaring by 500,000 to 2.4 million.
Etihad Airways President and CEO James Hogan, said: “We met all our revenue targets and budget estimates in the first quarter, despite the challenging economic conditions confronting the international community.
“Despite the tough economic times we believe our business model of organic network growth combined with codeshare partnerships and strategic equity investments will enable us to continue to prosper and ensure sustainable profitability.”
The record results were announced as Hogan unveiled plans for a significant expansion of the airline’s global network over the next 18 months. These included a daily service to Etihad Airways’ first South America destination and a new service to Vietnam. Mr Hogan said the South American flights would begin mid next year with details of the first destination now being finalised.
“This a logical next step for us and will mark the sixth continent we serve and our coming of age as a truly global airline,” Hogan said.
Etihad Airways also planned to replicate the success of its European expansion by introducing additional frequencies to a range of other destinations in Asia and Australia.“Our seat factor hit a record high but yields, particularly in the premium cabins, remain a challenge,” he added.
Already in the first quarter of 2012, Etihad Airways has announced the launch of non-stop daily flights to Washington, DC, begun flights to Tripoli, Shanghai and Nairobi, and will soon start services to Basra and Lagos, as well as increase flight frequencies to Düsseldorf, Bangkok, Cairo, Kuwait, and Dammam. Extra capacity will also be added to London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur. The national airline of the United Arab Emirates now has a worldwide network that stretches across 84 cities in 54 countries.
Etihad Airways will take delivery of seven new aircraft in 2012 – three Airbus A320s and four Boeing B777s, with the first three-class B777-300ER deployed on the London route from July. The carrier’s fleet will have grown to 71 aircraft by year’s end.
The airline said revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) rose during the first quarter by 26.6% to 10.9 billion, thanks to growth in available seat kilometres (ASKs) through new routes, additional frequencies, increased seat capacity and strengthening load factors. Seat factor jumped by 3.8% points to 76.5%, the highest first quarter level in the airline’s history.
Hogan highlighted the importance of Etihad’s partnership strategy in boosting passenger numbers in the first three months of the year.
“We are flying with fuller planes across the network and our codeshare partnerships played a major role in this growth, accounting for 18% of our revenues in the quarter.”
Recently Etihad Airways announced China Eastern Airlines had become its 37th partner airline with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) that encompasses joint route and schedule coordination, codesharing between the UAE and China and, in time, on each other’s networks.
“Our equity investments, in airberlin and Air Seychelles, are already bearing fruit and we are starting to see both revenue and cost benefits from synergies with each carrier.”
Etihad Airways and airberlin will save millions of dollars integrating their Boeing 787 Dreamliner programs and the UAE flag carrier is also extending the benefits of its billion dollar deal with travel technology provider Sabre Airline Solutions to Airberlin.
In January, Etihad Airways took a 40% stake in Air Seychelles enabling it to renew its fleet and take advantage of Etihad Airways’ extensive global route network, maximise efficiencies and boost sales opportunities
Hogan said Etihad Airways continued to focus on maintaining profitability, despite challenging market conditions. Escalating fuel costs, in particular, had a major impact on the aviation sector during the quarter.
“Fuel prices are our largest variable cost and they are tracking higher than 2011. We remain committed to an active fuel hedging strategy. 80% of our first quarter’s fuel costs were hedged and we currently have 74% of fuel costs hedged for the rest of 2012,” he said.
In March, Etihad Airways increased the fuel surcharge on its European flights to offset the costs being imposed on the airline by the European Union (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said recently that rising oil prices and Europe’s sovereign debt crisis were hanging over the airline industry’s fortunes.
Etihad Airways beat its 2011 break even target last year when it posted a net profit of USD14 million.
|Key indicators||Q1 2012||Q1 2011||Variance|
|Passenger revenue||US$ 763m||US$ 608m||25.4%|
|Cargo revenue||US$ 159m||US$ 142m||12.2%|
|Total revenue||US$ 989||US$ 770m||28.5%|
|Revenue passenger kilometres||10.91m||8.62m||26%|
Source: Etihad Airways
Before joining SME Advisor, I worked as a producer/reporter for Forbes Media in New York. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Studies at the University of South Florida in the US. I am currently in Dubai working as Sub-Editor for SME Advisor Middle East, which is a business magazine published by CPI. You can follow me on Twitter: @joumanasaad or @SMEadvisorME and (Joumana Saad) or (SME Advisor) on LinkedIn.