ABU DHABI // Etihad Airways plans to double its number of destinations to 100 and carry 25 million passengers a year by 2020, its chief executive says. Both feats, if successful, would preserve the carrier's status as the world's fastest-growing airline. James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, said in New York last week that the workforce could also swell from 6,600 currently to 27,000 people by 2020, with most of the jobs based in Abu Dhabi. The expansion would be served through a blockbuster order that Etihad placed in July at the Farnborough Air Show in Britain for up to 205 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus, worth US$43 billion (Dh158bn) at list prices, if all options are exercised. The Abu Dhabi carrier said it expected to reach the century mark in its route network in its 17th year of operation, five years less than its Dubai-based rival, Emirates, which reached 100 destinations last year. The two state-owned airlines have capitalised on the Gulf's ideal geographic location by setting up international hubs to ferry passengers between Asia and Europe, while also profiting from the Middle East region's economic boom.
The comments by Mr Hogan are the first time an Etihad executive has shared the company's growth projections, and come at a time when the airline - and its owner, the Abu Dhabi Government - has sought to increase the international standing of the emirate. Mr Hogan's visit last week included stops in the US and Canada. "Our projections to 2020 reflect that order and the scale of our ambitions, closely aligned to the growth of Abu Dhabi as an economic and tourism powerhouse," Mr Hogan said. A recent study by Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consultant, found the growth of Etihad had outpaced any other airline in history. After carrying one million passengers in 2005, Etihad is expecting to handle six million travellers this year. It has recorded one of its best summers, with 1.6 million passengers between June and last month. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org