Etihad Airways' passenger traffic rose 17 per cent to a record last year despite challenges posed by a softening global economy and high oil prices, the airline says.
Etihad said it carried 8.29 million passengers across its network, a jump of 1.1 million on 2010.
Etihad Crystal Cargo transported a record 310,000 tonnes, 18 per cent more than in 2010.
"This result, achieved while much of the world was still very much in the economic doldrums and oil prices remained high, is testament to our emergence as a formidable force in the international aviation arena," said James Hogan, the Etihad president and chief executive. "It also reflects our commitment to sensible, strategic expansion, which is why we launched eight new routes last year."
The eight routes are Bangalore, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Chengdu, Düsseldorf, Tripoli, Shanghai and Nairobi.
Bangkok was the airline's busiest route, with more than 500,000 passengers flying with the airline to the Thai capital last year. London and Manila followed closely, with Jeddah the fourth-busiest destination.
For cargo, Europe recorded the strongest growth as exports from markets such as Germany and Italy held firm even as the euro-zone crisis deepened across the continent in the second half of the year.
Etihad launched freighter services to Amsterdam, Cairo, Djibouti, Kabul and Kandahar, and increased service to China and India. It expanded its Johannesburg service by up to three freighters per week.
Last year was pivotal for Etihad as it strove to achieve its goal of a first full-year break-even since its launch in 2003. The airline, which moved into operating profit for the first time in the third quarter of last year, plans to release its financial results in the coming weeks.
Etihad's strong passenger growth mirrored strength in overall aircraft traffic in the UAE last year. Aircraft traffic rose 7.6 per cent from 2010, the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said yesterday.
Volumes rose the most in January last year, with daily aircraft movements rising by 10.3 per cent to 1,846 compared with 1,673 in the same month of the previous year.
Average movements per day reached 1,974 last month. Daily air traffic movement averaged 1,900 last year, up from 736 in 2010.
"The remarkable increase in air traffic movement in the UAE is attributed to the prosperity of business and tourism in the country.[It] possesses all the necessary factors to attract business people and tourists from around the globe," said Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, the director general of the GCAA.