Etihad first MEB3 carrier to serve Chicago; 54 destinations served non-stop from Abu Dhabi

Image: Etihad Pole Position
Pole Position: September 1 Chicago/O’Hare – Ethihad’s inaugural service is welcomed to the Windy City sporting a special livery to promote Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Formula 1 Grand Prix (the last race of the season in November). Initially a three-weekly service the Chicago operation becomes daily from January. first analysed the network performance of Etihad around 18 months ago. Since then the national airline of the United Arab Emirates has launched 12 new routes and continued to raise its global profile by increasing its sponsorship of certain sporting activities. It now operates a fleet of 43 passenger aircraft comprising 12 A320 series aircraft, 16 A330s, 10 A340s and five 777s. It has outstanding orders for an additional 100 aircraft plus options and purchase rights for a further 100. The first of 10 A380s is expected to enter service in 2012. In 2008 the airline carried 6.02 million passengers, an increase of 34% over 2007 and growth has continued in 2009. As a result Etihad now accounts for 60% of all scheduled flights at Abu Dhabi and 63% of weekly seat capacity.

Chart: Etihad traffic development - Quarterly passenger numbers (millions)
Source: Etihad
Image: Etihad Ribbon cutting
Chicago reception: Cutting the golden ribbon Geert Boven, Etihad Airways’ executive vice president (customer services and airport operations); Rosemarie Andolino, Chicago airport commissioner; and Rohan Alce, Etihad Airways’ USA country manager.

Having carried a record 616,000 passengers in July (up 9% on July 2008), this year the airline is hoping to reach seven million passengers and by January 2010 capacity is expected to be almost 15% higher than in January 2009 with 950 flights being operated each week. Apart from a new route to Hyderabad (starting in November) there will be frequency increases on routes to Athens, Beirut, Cairo, Kathmandu and Istanbul.

London Heathrow is busiest route

With three daily flights London Heathrow is the airline’s leading destination, followed by Bangkok. This is confirmed by Abu Dhabi airport whose traffic statistics for July reveal that London was the leading destination with 50,900 passengers (some of them traveling with British Airways) followed by Bangkok with 40,465. There are three destinations in Saudi Arabia in the top 10, with Paris CDG and Frankfurt the next two busiest European destinations in terms of weekly seat capacity.

Chart: Etihad’s top 15 routes from AUH - Weekly one-way seat capacity (and weekly frequency)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 September 2009

Since the beginning of 2008 the airline has launched 12 new routes, with Chicago services (the carrier’s second destination in the US) starting this week. Etihad currently serves 54 destinations non-stop plus Brisbane (via Singapore). For comparison Emirates and Qatar Airways serve 85 and 74 destinations respectively from their bases in nearby Dubai and Doha. Before the end of the year there will also be new routes to Cape Town (via Johannesburg) and Hyderabad.

Launch date Destination Initial WF Current competition
30 Mar 2008 Beijing (PEK) 4 None
01 Aug 2008 Kozhikode (CCJ) 7 Air India Express
01 Aug 2008 Chennai (MAA) 7 None
05 Aug 2008 Minsk (MSQ) 2 None
01 Dec 2008 Moscow Domodedovo (DME) 5 None
02 Dec 2008 Almaty (ALA) 4 None
29 Mar 2009 Melbourne (MEL) 7 None
07 May 2009 Astana (TSE) 1 None
01 Jun 2009 Istanbul (IST) 4 Turkish Airlines
02 Jun 2009 Athens (ATH) 3 None
14 Jun 2009 Larnaca (LCA) 3 JAT Airways
01 Sep 2009 Chicago O’Hare (ORD) 3 None
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 September 2009 and new route database
WF: Weekly frequency
Image: Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the airline is the race sponsor and also a major backer of championship hopeful Ferrari (currently third but on re-awoken form after winning the Belgian Grand Prix). Tourist chiefs will be praying the outcome comes down to the last race in the UAE capital.

First Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November

Etihad will hope to gain further global recognition by being the sponsor of the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of this year’s increasingly unpredictable Formula 1 season. Apart from promoting the race, which takes place on Sunday 1 November, the airline is also one of the key sponsors of the Ferrari Formula 1 team which won the most recent round of the championship at Spa in Belgium last week (just ahead of the Kingfisher sponsored Force India car of Giancarlo Fisichella). With Virgin sponsoring the championship leading Brawn team there is clearly a strong affinity between top flight motor sport and the airline industry which has replaced tobacco sponsorship.

The airline is now also the shirt sponsor for the increasingly multi-national English Premier League football team Manchester City which has made such an excellent start to the latest season, having won all of its first three matches.

Image: Abu Dhabi new Terminal Complex will be Etihad’s new base from 2011
A US$6.8 billion redevelopment programme is underway at Abu Dhabi where the Midfield Terminal Complex will be Etihad’s new base from 2011.


  1. Fahim Raza says:

    I think you guys have the best and the detailed coverage

  2. D Kelly says:

    I think ethihad have a model which is far more sustainable and modest than that of emirates and I hope they can continue to expand whilst maintaining their service levels

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