Etihad Airways to augment freighter fleet

August 17th, 2008 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Aug 17 (IANS) The $2.5- billion Etihad Airways of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to increase the share of its cargo revenue from the current 15 percent by augmenting its freighter fleet. “Currently we have three freighter craft, and that number will be doubled,” said Geert Boven, executive vice president, sales and services, Etihad Airways.

Eithad is expecting deliveries of three A330 freighter aircraft between 2008 and 2011. The freighter order is part of its $2.2 billion order for 12 aircraft, including nine passenger carriers, placed with Airbus.

At present the airline’s freighter fleet consists of three Airbus A300-600RF, serving destinations like Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and New Delhi in India as well as Shanghai, Dhaka, Khartoum and Shenzhen.

“Freighter aircraft apart, every passenger craft has cargo space in its belly to carry anything between five and 20 tonnes, giving us good revenue,” Boven told IANS.

During the first half of 2008, the airline carried more than 100,000 tonnes consisting of 127,000 global shipments.

The cargo revenue is expected to grow as Etihad Airways increases its passenger routes.

“The five-year-old airline will break even by 2010,” said James Hogan, chief executive of the airline.

He said Etihad had employed fuel hedging actively in the past two years and was not much affected by the hike in fuel prices.

“Now that the fuel price is going down, it augurs well for us.”

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad is increasing its passenger destinations. Flying to 48 destinations now, the airline is aiming to touch 50 by the end of the year with the launch of services to Moscow in Russia and Almaty in Kazakhstan.

Operating with a passenger fleet strength of 35 aircraft, Etihad in July had placed confirmed orders for 100 craft, 55 options and 50 purchase rights - the right to take delivery of an aircraft at a specified price on a future date.

“We will fund the purchase with a mix of debt and other modes,” Hogan said.

For Etihad, India is a major market as it operates 41 flights between the UAE and six Indian cities - Mumbai, New Delhi, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Kozhikode.

Etihad will add two more cities - Kolkata and Jaipur - early next year.

“We would like to fly to Hyderabad and Bangalore. Etihad is hopeful of securing further traffic rights from Abu Dhabi to Ahmedabad and Amritsar,” Hogan said.

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