Etihad Airways is aiming for more access in China as part of its ever-expanding reach in the global aviation industry.
The carrier, which has created the industry's first "equity alliance" with stakes in carriers including Air Berlin, operates a code-share agreement with two Chinese airlines - China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.
Etihad currently flies to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu and is working to develop its network in conjunction with its Chinese codeshare partners, said James Hogan, the president and chief executive.
"We have bilateral constraints [with] regards to China. We are using all of our rights at the moment and with the United Arab Emirates Civil Aviation Department, we will be lobbying for more access moving forward. We are keen to expand," Mr Hogan said yesterday.
"Nevertheless, Air Seychelles has just announced that it will be operating from the Seychelles, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong - Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Seychelles. That is another example of where an equity partner enables us to work in another market."
Etihad could add to its equity partners in the coming weeks with a possible stake in India's Jet Airways.
Executives from the airline were in India last week and met the ministers of civil aviation, finance and commerce to discuss the new rules governing foreign direct investment (FDI), said Mr Hogan. India, he said, is one of the powerhouses of the world economy. "If you look at the size of the market, from an air transportation perspective, the Indian market understands brand, productivity and great service."
Jet was similar to Etihad in terms of brand and service, he added.
"That's why we entered into discussion with Jet. We fly to nine cities in India today. We would like to expand our position in India, hence we are looking at opportunities for FDI."
Together, with its partners, Etihad operates a fleet of 379 aircraft flying to 384 destinations, giving it the largest reach of all Arabian Gulf carriers.
"And if you consider how 2013 is going to evolve with Air France, KLM, Air Berlin, Aer Lingus and Etihad coming out of Europe over Abu Dhabi, it is going to be the strongest combination of airlines feeding Abu Dhabi and selling to the Middle East, selling to the Indian subcontinent, selling to South East Asia and selling to Australasia," said Mr Hogan.
Going forward, airlines will cut costs by conducting joint-training exercises, Mr Hogan said, citing a deal to train both Air Berlin and Etihad staff for the 787s in Abu Dhabi.
"As we move into 2013 we will continue to look at ways where we can get the best price," he said. "The people right across the business have delivered this result and certainly as I look at the road ahead in 2013, we have set a profit target with our board. I can't share that profit target with you for 2013 but it is obviously greater than 2012."
Etihad will also increase its staff and assets, with plans to add 14 aircraft this year. Mr Hogan dismissed concerns about the 787 Dreamliner, which has been beset by mechanical issues, saying that it was not unusual for new aircraft to encounter problems. "We have no doubt that these issues with the aircraft has been resolved," he added.