Etihad Airways carried a record 8.29 million passengers in 2011, a 17 per cent increase on the previous year.

The jump represented an extra 1.197 million passengers on the carrier’s global network covering 82 passenger and cargo destinations.

“This result, achieved while much of the world was still very much in the economic doldrums and oil prices remained high, is testament to our emergence as a formidable force in the international aviation arena,” Etihad Airways President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr James Hogan, said.

“It also reflects our commitment to sensible, strategic expansion which is why we launched eight new routes last year,” he said.

These were to Bangalore, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Chengdu, Dusseldorf, Tripoli, Shanghai and Nairobi.

Etihad Airways’ busiest route was Bangkok with the airline carrying more than 500,000 passengers to the Thai capital during the year.

This was closely followed by London (479,000), Manila (446,000), and Jeddah (289,000) which represented a staggering 48 per cent increase over 2010.

Then came Sydney, Frankfurt, Paris , Manchester , Doha and Dublin to complete the list of the 10 most popular routes.