With the help of its new planned airport terminal in Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways hopes to treble its passenger count to 30 million and increase its fleet to 150 planes by 2030, charting out its “next chapter of growth.”
According to The National, Antonoaldo Neves, CEO of Etihad Airways, an airline located in Abu Dhabi, said that the company aimed to increase its yearly passenger volume and seat capacity by 10 percent over the next seven years.
The goal is part of a 10-year plan to reduce the number of ultra-long-haul routes in favour of more domestic and international ones, he explained.
Over the next decade, the airline plans to reorganise its network so that its Abu Dhabi hub connects passengers from China, India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and the Gulf region to European and American destinations via the Atlantic coast.
Point-to-point travel will further enhance demand for a visit to Abu Dhabi, and increasing airline frequencies to important European destinations will further reinforce the network.
Mr. Neves, speaking in an interview on the eve of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, said, “It’s the next chapter of growth.”
Mr. Neves, the former head of Portuguese carrier TAP, will take over for Tony Douglas as CEO of Etihad Aviation Group in October 2022.
As part of its plan to turn Abu Dhabi into a worldwide aviation centre, the Abu Dhabi government recently sold the holding firm ADQ its stake in the Etihad Aviation Group, Etihad Airways’ parent business.
Mr. Neves is now concentrating on enhancing the airline’s long-term viability as a priority.
After five years of “downsizing” as part of a restructuring process, he said the Abu Dhabi government, a stakeholder, “has set the aspirations very high” and it is time to “grow again” for the airline.
What we have to strive for is to be one of the finest airlines in the world, and I think we are, but we need to push the bar higher because everyone is pushing it higher and we cannot stop improving’, Mr Neves added.
Customers don’t want us to have only one flight a day to Paris or Geneva, therefore we need scale to be successful. As long as we’re making money, size doesn’t matter.”
The primary objective is to become a profitable airline, and the immediate objective is to repair the network and organise the banks, which is the industry name for the busiest arrival and departure times at the airline’s hub.
Up from 10 million in 2018, the airline plans to transport 30 million passengers by the year 2030. He stated that by 2023, the company anticipates transporting 13 million people, a rise of 23% annually.
Currently, Etihad Airways has a fleet of around 70 jets, but that number is expected to increase to 80 by the end of the year, and 150 by 2030.
“I don’t see why the airline cannot double the fleet size over the next seven years,” Mr. Neves added.
Profitablility is restored.
Mr. Neves added, without providing specifics, that Etihad Airways turned a profit last year thanks to a boom in air freight.
After a five-year reorganisation plan decreased its fleet, network, and employees, the company reported a record first-half profit.
Well done, team! “Cargo was a goldmine,” he said.
When asked if this year will be successful as well, he said, “We are working towards that.”
The airline “did well” on the passenger side of the business in the first quarter of 2023, he added, transporting around three million people over the course of the quarter, or about 1.1 million each month.
Mr. Neves forecasts “extremely strong” demand for both leisure and business travel from now through the end of the year, with particularly solid demand coming from Europe and the United States.
To paraphrase, “I am very confident this is here to stay,” he remarked.
Etihad is in a “good position” to expand into the nation since it has around 10,000 seats a week of unused flying rights between India and Abu Dhabi, in contrast to other rivals in the area that are seeking greater capacity in the Indian market, according to Mr. Neves.
The reopening of China to international tourists has also prompted the airline to announce an increase in the number of flights to the country. It’s a major market for us, and we have strong ties with airline partners there.
According to the executive, the airline would likely restore its pre-pandemic network and capacity by 2025.
He warned that “you always have to be cautious, ready for change, and agile” in light of rising inflation and oil costs and their potential impact on travel demand.
Mr. Neves has stated that his goals for the expansion of the airline are congruent with those of ADQ. His priorities include “great” products and services for all cabin classes, a reliable infrastructure, and effective operations.
First and foremost, I am very much in sync with ADQ’s shareholder goal, which is what ultimately led to my joining the company, he added. When everyone has the same priorities and is on the same page, we can do so much more.
First and foremost, I can only put my faith in airlines that can maintain their current level of operations. For the past 15 years, I’ve dedicated my career to improving aviation-related businesses.
The executive, who has experience in engineering and corporate finance, has established a committee to evaluate customer satisfaction at “every point of the journey” once a week in an effort to boost productivity.
He said that Etihad’s competitive edge will come from the quality of its products, the efficiency of its operations, and its ability to recruit “the best team of people” in the Middle East.
“People are going to be dying to fly on us,” Mr. Neves said.