(MENAFN Editorial) Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, is celebrating a year of record-breaking success after achieving its highest ever passenger and cargo volumes in 2013.
Nearly 12 million people flew with Etihad Airways last year, marking a significant increase of nearly 16 per cent in comparison to 2012's figure of 10.3 million.
Bangkok was once again the airline's busiest route, with a total of 742,759 passengers flying to Thailand's capital city in 2013, a year-on-year increase of seven per cent.
Manila was the second busiest route (547,068 passengers), followed by London (544,564 passengers), Jeddah (373,651 passengers) and Paris (338,969 passengers).
Etihad Airways carried 73 per cent of the more than 16.4 million passengers who travelled through Abu Dhabi airport in 2013. With the addition of the airline's equity alliance partners that operate flights into Abu Dhabi, the combined total rises to 79 per cent of passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi airport.
James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: "Our record-breaking numbers in 2013 reflect the continued success of our strategic master plan, which focuses on three fundamental pillars; organic network growth, the forging of codeshare partnerships, and minority equity investments in other airlines.
"As the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, we also continued to support Abu Dhabi's growth as a leading international travel hub, while facilitating trade to and from the country."
Six destinations were introduced to Etihad Airways' network in 2013, with new services launched to Washington DC in March, Amsterdam in May, Sao Paulo and Belgrade in June, Sana'a in September, and Ho Chi Minh City in October.
Frequencies were also increased on 18 existing routes last year and new codeshare agreements were signed with Kenya Airways, Air Serbia, South African Airways, Belavia, Korean Airlines, Air Canada and airBaltic.
During 2013, building on its organic growth, Etihad Airways also expanded its codeshare and equity partnerships, which delivered more than 1.8 million passengers onto Etihad Airways flights, 38 per cent higher than the 1.3 million in 2012
In addition to its four existing equity partners “ airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus - Etihad rways announced investments in three additional carriers in 2013.
In August, the airline formalised a five-year contract to manage Serbia's national carrier, Air Serbia (formerly Jat Airways), with a 49 per cent equity stake. This was followed in November, when the airline obtained regulatory approval from the Indian government to finalise a 24 per cent investment in Jet Airways, and announced its intention to acquire 33.3 per cent of the Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline, which will become the first airline to operate under the new brand of Etihad Regional.
Impressive cargo growth was also reported, with 486,753 tonnes of freight and mail flown by Etihad Airways last year, a staggering increase of 32 per cent compared to 2012 volumes. The airline accounted for 89 per cent of cargo imports, exports and transfers at Abu Dhabi airport last year.
Volumes were boosted by enhancements to the freighter fleet capability and more cargo in the bellyhold of passenger aircraft. Established markets such as China, Hong Kong and India were top performers, in addition to expanding markets such as the Netherlands and the United States.
Last year, Etihad Airways took delivery of eight Airbus aircraft (four A320s, one A321, two A330-200s and one A330 freighter), eight Boeing aircraft (six 777-300ERs and two 777 freighters), and added further leased capacity which included the airline's inaugural 747-8 freighter. Its fleet now comprises 89 aircraft, with an average age of only 5.2 years.
Mr Hogan added: "This has been another game-changing year and once again, the customer was placed at the heart of everything we did. Our service enhancements in 2013, from the launch of our Flying Nanny service to the continued rollout of Wi-Fi internet and live television across our fleet, highlight a commitment to delivering best-in-class products and services.
"I am excited about what the future holds and look forward to working with all our partners to maximise the return for our shareholder, enable the continued growth and the evolution of Abu Dhabi as an aviation hub, and create a remarkable experience for our passengers."
Etihad Airways' Top 10 Routes in 2013