Etihad Airways on Tuesday announced its strongest ever passenger and cargo volumes for a first quarter, just as its negotiations for a 49-percent stake in Alitalia regain momentum. The airline, whose bid for a piece of Alitalia marks yet another effort to expand its already considerable global influence, logged $1.4 billion in total revenues during the three-month period, marking a year-on-year increase of 27 percent.
The airline registered a 14-percent increase in passengers carried during the first quarter, to 3.2 million, while Etihad Cargo carried 26 percent more freight, or 127,821 tons, during the period. The airline’s cargo revenue also increased by 26 percent, to $243 million, placing Etihad Cargo on pace to become a billion-dollar business in 2014.
“Our strong performance highlights the continued success of Etihad Airways’ strategic master plan, which focuses on the three fundamental pillars of organic network growth, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other airlines around the world,” said Etihad president and CEO James Hogan. “This unique strategy, and the investments we have made in product, service and infrastructure, means that Etihad Airways is positioned strongly for top-line growth and bottom-line delivery in 2014.”
Code share and equity partnerships delivered 678,000 passengers onto Etihad Airways flights in the first quarter of the year, contributing 25 percent more traffic than during the same period last year. Revenue from code share and equity partners rose 23 percent, to $223 million, representing 22 percent of total revenue in the quarter.
During the quarter Etihad signed new code-share agreements with Air Europa and JetBlue, while it expanded an existing codeshare with airBaltic. Etihad also obtained regulatory approval to acquire a 49 per cent share of Air Serbia.
Meanwhile, Etihad’s fleet expanded to 95 aircraft during the period, marking a 30-percent increase in fleet size over the same period last year, while the airline’s passenger carrying capacity, measured in available seat kilometers, increased by 21 percent, to 19.2 billion.
Assuming it gains regulatory approval to take its planned stake in Alitalia, Etihad’s list of equity partners stands to increase to eight. Its 49-percent stake in Air Berlin has come under scrutiny recently by the European Union, which has launched investigations into several foreign investments in European airlines. The EU requires that European nationals or companies control the airlines headquartered in the zone.