Etihad Airways has announced record passenger revenues as it prepares to launch new codeshare deals, giving it more destinations than any other Middle East airline.
Passenger revenues reached US$921 million in the second quarter, up by 8 per cent from $855m in the same period last year and the airline's strongest performance for the quarter on record, Etihad said yesterday.
Passenger revenue for the first half of the year reached $1.8 billion, a rise of 13 per cent from $1.6bn in the first half of last year and also a record half-year result.
Cargo remained the standout performer for the airline, with a 26 per cent jump in freight carried during the second quarter to 112,963 tonnes.
Etihad's strong second-quarter and first-half performances came despite a "tough trading climate", said James Hogan, the president and chief executive.
"This reflects not only the continuing popularity of our Abu Dhabi hub, but the growing maturity of our airline partnership strategy and the strength of our cargo operations," he said.
The airline has caused ripples through the global aviation industry in the past two years with an acceleration of its strategy to gain market share through codeshare partnerships and acquiring stakes in carriers.
Mr Hogan said a significant achievement in the second quarter was the improved contribution of Etihad's "equity-alliance partners".
Germany's airberlin, in which Etihad holds a 29 per cent stake, has become the largest codeshare contributor, he said.
Revenue generated by codeshare and equity-alliance partners was $184m in the second quarter, 25 per cent higher than the $147m during the same period last year. Partnership revenue made up 20 per cent of the airline's total passenger revenue, both in the second quarter and the first half of the year.
During the period, Etihad added Serbia's national carrier Jat Airways to its code-share partners. It also announced new partnerships with Air Canada, South African Airways and Belavia of Belarus, all to take effect during the third quarter.
"With these inclusions, Etihad Airways will have 45 codeshare partners and a virtual global network of more than 350 destinations, the most comprehensive of any alliance or Middle Eastern airline," it said yesterday.
Its bid to extend its equity stakes remains a work in progress. During the second quarter it secured Australian regulatory approval to raise its stake in Virgin Australia from 10 per cent to 19.9 per cent.
But a government row in India is hanging over its bid to take a 24 per cent share in Jet Airways. It remains in talks with the Serbian government about acquiring equity in Jat.
Still, organic growth bolsters Etihad's bottom line.
Available seat kilometres - reflecting network seat capacity - rose by 13 per cent to 17.2 billion. The rise was achieved through the delivery of two new wide-body Boeing 777-300 aircraft. Etihad also added new routes to Amsterdam, Sao Paulo and Belgrade as well as daily services to Washington.
The airline's seat factor - how full its aircraft are - dipped by 0.3 percentage points to 77.3 per cent during the quarter.
The growth in cargo volumes was underpinned in the second quarter by the delivery of three new freighter aircraft and increased passenger services.
In addition to Virgin Australia and airberlin, Etihad also holds shares of 40 per cent in Air Seychelles and 3 per cent in Aer Lingus.