Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airlines and International Airport Keep Growing

Vacation News » Vacation & Leisure Real Estate Edition | By Alma Kadragic | February 6, 2009 7:48 AM ET

(ABU DHABI, UAE)-- More than nine million passengers traveled through Abu Dhabi International Airport in 2008, an increase of 30 percent over 2007. The increase reflects the continuing prosperity of Abu Dhabi, the growth in business and tourism despite the global downturn, and the expansion of Etihad Airways.

Despite the worldwide slowdown in airline travel, even in December Abu Dhabi airport's passenger traffic grew by more than 12 percent, unique in the industry. "We are grateful for the ever increasing number of passengers who, quite clearly, are looking to Abu Dhabi as an airport of choice in the UAE and region," said Khalifa Al Mazrouei, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports Company.

"In achieving this milestone Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the UAE, must be recognized for the commitment the airline is making to increasing connectivity and frequencies to and from the UAE capital," Al Mazrouei added.

According to Geet W Boven, Etihad's executive vice president for sales and services, the government will invest more than $200 billion in Abu Dhabi over the next 10 years. That is good news for Etihad which has set a target of 25 million passengers per year and a network of 100 destinations by 2020.

In January, Etihad took delivery of an Airbus A340-600 financed as lease to purchase by Al Hilal Bank, a new Islamic bank based in Abu Dhabi. Mohamed Jamil Berro, CEO Al Hilal Bank, and James Hogan, CEO Etihad Airways, posed for photos in the cockpit.

The airline has been expanding existing services and adding new ones. Yesterday, Etihad announced it was increasing flights to Milan from three times to five times a week beginning March 29. "The increase in our Italian flights follows a record year for the airline, with more than 55,000 passengers flying between Abu Dhabi and Milan and seat factors currently averaging 85 percent," said Boven.

From September 2, Etihad will fly to Chicago three times a week and four times a week from October 1. That will give Etihad its second destination in the US, following its daily service to New York, and its third in North America after Toronto. "Starting flights to Chicago is a very proud moment in the history of Etihad Airways and upholds our ambitious plans to link Abu Dhabi with key strategic cities around the world," Hogan said.

The new service to Chicago will increase the airline's global flight network to 55 cities and follows confirmation that Etihad will also begin flights to Melbourne, Athens, and Istanbul during 2009. 

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