Etihad is to launch service to Vietnam and increase frequencies to a range of destinations in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 18 months.
The Vietnam move is on the back of a more open bilateral agreement between the UAE and the South-East Asian country signed year. The carrier has also launched service to Shanghai and increased capacity to Kuala Lumpur in the first quarter.
Etihad chief executive officer James Hogan said the carrier derived 18% of its revenue in the first quarter from codeshare partners - the carrier recently added China Eastern as its 37th partner.
The carrier reported a 28% increase in first quarter revenues to US$989 million, with revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) up by 26.6 per cent to 10.9 billion, and load factor up by 3.8 percentage points to 76.5 per cent.
Total passengers carried increased by 500,000 to 2.4 million. Etihad president and chief executive officer, James Hogan, said: “We met all our revenue targets and budget estimates in the first quarter, despite the challenging economic conditions confronting the international community.
“Despite the tough economic times we believe our business model of organic network growth combined with codeshare partnerships and strategic equity investments will enable us to continue to prosper and ensure sustainable profitability.”
In addition to the Asia-Pacific expansion, the carrier plans to launch service to South America.
Etihad Airways will take delivery of seven new aircraft in 2012 – three Airbus A320s and four Boeing 777s, with the first three-class B777-300ER deployed on the London route from July. The carrier’s fleet will have grown to 71 aircraft by year’s end.
“Fuel prices are our largest variable cost and they are tracking higher than 2011. We remain committed to an active fuel hedging strategy. Eighty per cent of our first quarter’s fuel costs were hedged and we currently have 74 per cent of fuel costs hedged for the rest of 2012,” Hogan said.
Despite an industry-wide slowdown in air freight markets, Etihad Cargo saw revenues up 12.2 per cent to US$159 million. Hogan added: “We have capitalised on more freighter flights into Central Asia and Libya early in the year and made better use of the bellyhold capacity of our newer passenger routes, such as Düsseldorf, Shanghai, Chengdu and Tripoli."