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Monday, August 17, 2009
Etihad Airways plans to enter hospitality sector
Etihad Airways is considering entering the hospitality sector by having its own hotels to cater to growing demands of the tourism industry, said its chief executive.
Speaking to Emirates News Agency (Wam), James Hogan said the airline now flies to 55 destinations, while new aircraft to be added to the fleet will take the number to 52 this year.
Hogan said an operation and control room as well as a crisis management center have been set up at the new Etihad headquarters.
The operation room has been equipped with advanced systems to monitor Etihad aircraft around the world round the clock while the crisis management centre can handle any emergency facing any of the airliner’s aircraft.
Also, Etihad Training Academy has been set up at the new headquarters near Abu Dhabi International Airport to train a new generation of Emiratis to fly the aircraft, offer services at the contact centers and run Etihad stations around the world, said Hogan.
Hogan said six UAE nationals are now piloting the A320s, and by September 10 more national pilots, including two females, will graduate.
Two Emirati females have been sent to Australia to study aviation engineering and will graduate in October, along with a team of engineers of 13 nationals.
The CEO said a beginner pilot receives 750 hours of theoretical training and 205 hours of practical training.
Hogan said Etihad has seen a nine per cent growth in occupancy rates (or load factor) this year, adding the company is expected to carry some seven million passengers this year.
He said Etihad is heading to achieve international repute. Thanks to the achievements made in a record time, it has become a leading carrier in the Gulf, Middle East, Europe and Asia.
Etihad carried some 616,000 passengers in July, a nine per cent increase in comparison with the same period last year, said the chief executive, adding it was the busiest month in the company’s history.
Also in July, Etihad flew 900 services a week, 20 per cent more compared to the same month last year, with an occupancy rate of 88 per cent in first, business and economy classes.
Hogan said the record set in the number of passengers in July shows that Etihad has seen a high rate of occupancy in its worldwide network of some 50 destinations despite current global challenges.
The CEO spoke of the strong performance in Etihad services to Asia-Pacific and North America last month at an average occupancy rate of 86 per cent. For European flights it was 82 per cent and the Middle East 77 per cent.
He said between 2010 and 2011, Etihad Airways will be an international airliner with a big share of the world travel and tourism market.
He expected a rise in prices of air tickets and cargo next year because of an improvement in the economic situation in many countries and an increase in fuel prices. The economic revival in major markets will help a return of ticket prices to normal pre-crisis levels.
Hogan described the local market as excellent, saying Etihad Airways always seeks to improve customer services to maintain a bigger share of the market. Low-cost airlines are unlikely to affect the expansion and growth plans of Etihad; budget flights boost competition and improve services in the market, he said.
Once the airline receives the delivery of A320 aircraft for short routes, Etihad will not face problems with low-cost aviation, said Hogan.
Etihad is co-operating with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the Tourism Development and Investment Company to develop tourism in the emirate. There is strong partnership to promote tourism both inside and outside the emirate, he said.
He highlighted Etihad’s role in boosting investment in Abu Dhabi.
Hogan said Abu Dhabi has a bright future as the emirate has become the most important tourism destination in the Middle East and one of the leading ones worldwide.
He said Abu Dhabi 2030 plan makes it an international city and a tourism and investment centre to attract more tourists and businessmen. Most visitors have started to spend more time in the city.
Hogan said Etihad is planning to start services to Chicago in September and Tokyo in the first quarter of next year.
Etihad is now negotiating to conclude a partnership deal with American Airlines to fly Etihad’s passengers on the Chicago route to 27 US cities.
Etihad currently has a fleet of 44 modern aircraft in addition to three cargo planes flying from the Abu Dhabi airport. The aircraft delivery schedule has not been affected by the developments in the civil aviation industry in the US and Europe as a result of the global economic crisis, he said.