Etihad Wet-Leases Air France A340 for Paris Route

United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier Etihad Airways is to wet-lease an Airbus A340-300 from Air France for operation on its Abu Dhabi – Paris CDG route for a six month period this year as its partnership with European giant Air France-KLM deepens.  The 272-seat jet will be used on Etihad’s EY37 and EY38 rotations on the route, one of two daily services it flies, from May 15, 2013 until November 30, 2013.

The arangement is thought to be linked to Etihad’s plans to expand its European network with Air France’s sister carrier KLM through the introduction of its own branded daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam.  This new service commences from May 15, 2013, the same day that the aircraft switch takes place on the Paris route.

“This agreement to wet-lease an Air France A340-300 aircraft demonstrates the mutual benefits generated by our close relationship with Air France-KLM,” said Kevin Knight, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, Etihad Airways.  “On the back of recent announcements, this latest cooperation deal is good for both carriers in terms of better optimising our fleets for the rest of 2013.”

Etihad has been serving the Franch capital since May 2006, introducing daily flights from March 2007, a second rotation from September 2007 and double daily services from July 2011.   The route was previously served by Gulf Air and has also been operated by Air France, most recently between May 2010 and March 2012.  In the 12 months until November 2012, an estimated 58,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled on the route, up down 20.1 per cent on the previous 12 months due to Air France’s departure from the market.

The details of Etihad’s European network change were made as the carrier boosted its flights to the Australian city of Brisbane, a popular market for travellers to and from Europe.  From February 1, 2013 the carrier has introduced a daily schedule on the route from Abu Dhabi, via Singapore, adding an extra 1,048 seats per week into the market.  Etihad Airways commenced three weekly flights to Brisbane and Singapore on September 28, 2007. The Queensland capital was the airline’s second destination in Australia and the 43rd in its global network.

“The additional capacity puts Etihad Airways in a stronger than ever position in the Singapore and Australian markets. It enables us to compete on a more level playing field than in the past,” said James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Etihad Airways.  “The new schedule also offers more to the thousands of business and leisure travellers, particularly from the Middle East, UK, Ireland and Europe, who are heading to Singapore and the state of Queensland in ever-increasing numbers.”

The airline operates an Airbus A330-200 aircraft configured in two classes with 22 seats in Pearl Business Class and 240 seats in Coral Economy Class on the Abu Dhabi-Singapore-Brisbane route.  The Abu Dhabi-headquartered airline has close ties with the Queensland Government and its agency, Tourism and Events Queensland. It has supported major marketing initiatives such as the Million Dollar Memo, and in 2011 donated $1 million to the Queensland Flood Appeal. The same year its shareholder, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, donated $30 million to the Government of Queensland to build five category five cyclone shelters for use as multi-purpose centres year round.

According to Mr Hogan, the airline is now working even more closely with government and industry stakeholders in this market to ensure the route’s continuing success.  “In Queensland, for example, we have just signed a new marketing agreement with Tourism and Events Queensland to encourage more visitors from the Middle East, UK and Europe to holiday in the Sunshine State.”

Etihad will be hoping 2013 will be a third consecutive year of profitability having posted a $42 million net profit in 2012 following a more modest $14 million result the previous year.  The carrier is due to receive 14 new aircraft during the calendar year with 11 passenger aircraft deliveries and three freighter deliveries.  These comprise nine wide bodied aircraft (six Boeing 777-300ER passenger, two Boeing 777 freighter and one Airbus A330 freighter) and five narrow body aircraft (four Airbus A320s and one Airbus A321) and will meet the carrier’s immediate growth requirements and fleet renewal.

According to Etihad’s latest financial results, revenues increased 17 per cent to US$4.8 billion (US$4.1 billion) in 2012, on passenger numbers up 23 per cent to 10.3 million (8.4 million).  These numbers were boosted significantly by the carrier’s equity partnerships and codeshares, which delivered more than US$600 million in total revenue, contributing around 19 per cent of the figure.

“This has been a game-changing year for Etihad Airways,” said James Hogan.  “We have delivered improved net profit, the second consecutive year we have been in the black, a remarkable achievement given the youth, ambitious growth and ongoing investment made by this airline in a challenging global economic environment.

“We have taken great strides in building the industry's first 'equity alliance', with our investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus, which are contributing significant value to our business.  And we have met our mandate of contributing to the economic development of Abu Dhabi, growing its aviation sector and building trade and tourism connections across the globe,” he added.

During the year, growth in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) outpaced growth in available seat kilometres (ASKs) for the fourth year running.  RPKs were up 23 per cent to 48 billion (39 billion), on ASKs up 20 per cent to 61 billion (51 billion), resulting in an impressive lift in seat factor of 2.4 points to 78.2 per cent (75.8 per cent).  The equity and codeshare partners delivered more than 1.2 million passengers onto the Etihad Airways network. airberlin, in which Etihad Airways holds a 29.21 per cent stake, made a very strong contribution, with more than 300,000 passengers shared between their networks, delivering more than US$130 million in total to the two airlines.

During 2012 Etihad began flying to six new destinations - Tripoli, Shanghai, Nairobi, Lagos, Ahmedabad and Basra - and also announced new flights to Washington, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Ho Chi Minh City for 2013.  It also increased frequency and capacity of services to six cities - Dusseldorf, Bangkok, Kuwait, Dammam, Istanbul and Cairo.  Etihad’s own network now encompasses 86 passenger and cargo destinations, while through its codeshare and equity partners it serves a total of 248 destinations from Abu Dhabi.

In the year ending November 2012, an estimated 3.74 million passengers transited at Abu Dhabi International Airport on Etihad Airways flights.  This represents around a 62.9 per cent share of its total network.  In the table below we highlight the main bi-directional O&D traffic flows within the Etihad network via its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport for the 12 months ending November 2012.  As a comparison the carrier’s top five O&D markets from/to Abu Dhabi during the same period were Bahrain (105,546), Doha International (101,630), London Heathrow (96,043), Jeddah (80,418) and Kuwait City (73,466).

MAIN MARKETS FOR SCHEDULED ETIHAD AIRWAYS PASSENGERS VIA ABU DHABI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT  (bi-directional O&D passengers; 12 months to November 2012)

Rank

Origin

Destination

Estimated O&D Passengers

1

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

London Heathrow (LHR)

49,712

2

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

Paris CDG (CDG)

47,614

3

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

Riyadh King Khaled International (RUH)

47,068

4

Dammam King Fahd International (DMM)

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

44,611

5

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

Manchester (MAN)

41,681

6

London Heathrow (LHR)

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

38,153

7

Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International (CGK)

Jeddah King Abdulaziz International (JED)

33,253

8

London Heathrow (LHR)

Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD)

33,223

9

Doha International (DOH)

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

32,687

10

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

Brussels National (BRU)

32,396

11

Beirut Rafic Hariri (BEY)

Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD)

29,570

12

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

Kuwait City (KWI)

27,512

13

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)

Frankfurt Am Main International (FRA)

26,051

14

Kuwait City (KWI)

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

24,632

15

Dublin International (DUB)

Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD)

23,934

16

Muscat International (MCT)

Manila Ninoy Aquino International (MNL)

22,347

17

London Heathrow (LHR)

Malbourne Tullamarine (MEL)

21,938

18

Bahrain International (BAH)

Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International (DAC)

21,071

19

Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International (CGK)

Riyadh King Khaled International (RUH)

20,986

20

Beirut Rafic Hariri (BEY)

Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International (DAC)

20,069