Etihad Airways reported its strongest first half performance, with large increases in both passenger and cargo traffic. The airline experienced double digit growth in the first half of 2010, with passenger numbers up 11 per cent and revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) up 22.6 per cent over the same period last year.

The growth in passenger numbers, to almost 3.3 million, was accompanied by a rise in seat factors, from 71.5 per cent to 72.5 per cent. There was also a 21.6 per cent increase in cargo tonnage carried during the quarter, with revenues up by 59 per cent. Despite growth of 20.9 per cent in available seat kilometres (ASKs), the airline reduced its costs per available seat kilometre by 4 per cent in the six months ended 30 June 2010.

The improvements were seen despite the difficulties caused by the volcanic ash which covered Europe’s air routes in April, causing severe disruption to air travel during the month.

The figures mark Etihad’s best first half performance and signal a return to strong passenger and cargo growth, following the impacts of the global economic recession.

Highlights of the second quarter included:

• the establishment of non-stop flights from Abu Dhabi to Tokyo, with Etihad the first Middle Eastern airline to operate to the Japanese capital;

• the launch of new non-stop services to Baghdad and Erbil;

• Etihad being awarded the Airbus Top Operational Excellence Award for its fleet of A340-500/600 aircraft at the Airbus Technical Symposium in Berlin, after the airline was found to outperform other airline fleets based on a number of criteria for operational excellence over a two-year period;

• Etihad passing its International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which seeks to ensure that airlines are compliant with safety requirements and recommended practices determined by IATA; and

• Etihad being named the Middle East’s Leading Airline at the World Travel Awards for the Middle East in May, one of six awards on the night, followed by winning the World’s Best First Class award at the Skytrax awards later in the month.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said:

“We are very pleased with our performance over the first half of this year. Despite the continuing economic challenges faced by all airlines, our investment in infrastructure and in our service offer is paying off.

“Looking forward, the trends are promising, with forward bookings on an upward trajectory. We are also seeing signs of improvements in premium traffic.

“With this continued improvement in our passenger and cargo traffic, particularly in the premium cabins, we are confident of meeting our targets.”

The airline will operate a total of 1,032 flights a week this summer, a 16 per cent rise on the 888 weekly flights that operated during the same season in 2009. The airline has reported strong forward bookings for the summer.

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