James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad Airways, is targeting revenue of more than US$5 billion (Dh18.36bn) this year after he reiterated the airline's expansion plans by buying stakes in other global carriers.
Mr Hogan laid out the carrier's ambitions at an aviation conference in the capital yesterday.
"We see further equity investments only if it's the right opportunity, right partner, right market and right price," he said in a speech at the World Route Development Forum in the capital.
Etihad has already snapped up minority equity stakes this year in Virgin Australia, Aer Lingus and Air Seychelles after hitting the acquisition trail. It also has an almost 30 per cent stake in Air Berlin.
Further acquisitions would fall along the same lines with Mr Hogan making it clear the airline was not interested in majority ownership. The carrier will also continue to add to its codeshare partnerships. Etihad has agreements with 38 airlines, contributing about 20 per cent of revenue.
"Our equity model is about growth, not control," he said.
"Through partners, we stretch our reach and it gives us the ability to compete with our immediate neighbours."
Equity stakes and codeshare deals have become a major cornerstone of the airline's expansion as it competes for traffic with its regional rivals Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways.
Last year, it landed a net profit of $14 million, its first time in the black since launching in 2003.
This year, Etihad's revenue will hit a record $5bn or more, despite pressures squeezing the aviation industry from the global economic slowdown and higher fuel prices, he said. Revenues reached $4.1bn last year and revenues from partnerships hit $281m in the first half of this year, Mr Hogan said.
Going hand in hand with Etihad's expansion has been the development of its base, Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Construction on the airport's new Midfield Terminal began this month and is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2017, James Bennett, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac), said on the sidelines of the World Route forum.
"The primary benefit of the new terminal is that it will be a showcase for Abu Dhabi and it will allow Etihad to grow," he said.
Located between two existing runways, a consortium led by Turkey's TAV, Greece's Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) and the UAE builder Arabtec Construction is working on the Dh10.8bn project. The terminal will initially have a capacity of 30 million passengers a year. Adac is also working on smaller projects worth up to Dh1bn in total, to help increase capacity at the airport.
"Work is already underway for a new bus-gate facility, we are adding 20 new bus-gates," said Mr Bennett. "We are also adding extra [Airbus] A380 capability and some non public-facing improvements." The smaller projects will be completed by the third quarter of next year, he said.
Etihad has a fleet of 67 aircraft, including six cargo aircraft. Its four equity stakes bring the total aircraft fleet to 379, flying more than 72 million passengers.
Last year, 12.4 million passengers came through the airport, so far this year the figure has increased to 14 million, up 21.5 per cent, said Mr Bennett.