Etihad Airways has commenced commercial service with the Boeing 787-9 as it reports a strong lift in passenger numbers for 2014.
The United Arab Emirates flag carrier said it flew 14.8 million passengers in calendar 2014, an increase of 23 per cent from the prior year.
Of those 14.8 million, Etihad said 3.5 million passengers, or 23.6 per cent of all passengers, were delivered from its network of equity and codeshare partners such as Virgin Australia, airberlin and Jet Airways. This was up 40 per cent from 2.5 million in calendar 2013.
“Our business model, which focuses on organic network growth, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other airlines, continued to yield positive results in 2014 and surpassed our double-digit targets for passenger and cargo growth,” Etihad chief executive James Hogan said in a statement on Monday.
“We enter 2015 as a stronger, more dynamic airline that will continue to enhance the growth of Abu Dhabi as one of the world’s emerging aviation hubs.”
Etihad said its cargo division reported a 17 per cent increase in freight in 2014 to 568,648 tonnes.
Meanwhile, Etihad has started scheduled flights with its first Boeing 787-9.
The inaugural flight with the first of 71 Dreamliners the airline has on order – a mixture of 787-9 and 787-10 variants – took off from Abu Dhabi Airport at 0241 local time on Sunday, February 1, arriving six hours and 58 minutes later in Dusseldorf at 0639 Central European Time according to flight tracking website Flightaware.
The 787-9, configured with eight first, 28 business and 199 economy seats, replaced an Airbus A330-300 that previously operated the route.
Etihad was scheduled to deploy the 787-9 between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi from June 1 2015. It is also making its Brisbane-Abu Dhabi route a non-stop flight from that date, compared to a one-stop service via Singapore currently.
The start of June would also mark the debut of the airline’s flagship Airbus A380 on the Sydney route. The NSW capital was the second city to receive Etihad’s double-decker superjumbo, following its use to London from December 2014.