x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

11 million take off and land at Abu Dhabi's airport

The UAE capital staged a strong recovery in air travel in 2010 with Abu Dhabi International Airport handling nearly 11 million passengers last year.

An Etihad plane is reflected in the glass of the new Terminal 3 building at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Andrew Parsons / The National
An Etihad plane is reflected in the glass of the new Terminal 3 building at Abu Dhabi International Airport. Andrew Parsons / The National

Passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport surged last year, with the airport handling nearly 11 million travellers, a 12 per cent jump from 2009.

New airlines serving the capital, in addition to the growth of the local carrier Etihad Airways, which added new frequencies, destinations and aircraft, helped the airport to increase its business.

The results are a marked improvement from 2009, when the global economic downturn sapped demand for air travel. In that year Abu Dhabi airport traffic grew 7 per cent, its lowest level in years.

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) has marketed itself heavily internationally to welcome new carriers to spur additional trade and tourism into the country. The UAE capital is positioning itself to become a major hub for air travel, tourism and aerospace. Next year it will host World Routes 2012, one of the airport industry's largest conferences.

George Moussa, the chairman of Planet Group, a UAE travel company, said an increase in hotel rooms had brought prices down to more "logical" levels, making travel into Abu Dhabi more affordable, which was helping to stimulate travel growth. "The recession is behind us and people are again travelling," he added. "The UAE is showing good growth at all levels, in both leisure and business travel."

Air France, Jordan's Royal Falcon, Air Arabia Egypt, Air Astana of Kazakhstan, and GMG Airlines of Bangladesh all began new services into the Abu Dhabi airport last year, bringing the total number of airlines serving the UAE capital to 52.

ADAC has also sought to revitalise the UAE's Al Ain International Airport, which last year saw inaugural services from Ariana Afghan Airlines and Oman Air. A scheduled service from Air Arabia Egypt was also expected to start this month, but has been postponed to the summer.

James Bennett, the chief executive of ADAC, hailed the results as "well above the world airports' average growth" and attributed the success to its development efforts. "Abu Dhabi's increasing awareness as an attractive business and tourist destination, led us again to a very positive end of year outcome," he said.

Etihad Airways, which accounts for the majority of traffic at the airport, had a strong year last year when revenue grew by 29 per cent to US$2.95 billion (Dh10.83bn) from 2009, and passenger traffic rose 13 per cent to 7.1 million. Over the year, Etihad added eight new aircraft, including two freighters, and began flying to seven new destinations.

Etihad plans to add two new destinations to its network this year, including one in Europe. Its fleet, currently 57 aircraft, will be boosted by six new passenger aircraft this year, comprising two new Boeing 777-300ERs, three Airbus A330-300s, and one Airbus A320.

In addition to the UAE capital, Dubai's aviation industry is also expected to break records for last year, including Dubai International Airport, its main customer Emirates Airline, and new budget start-up flydubai. Dubai annual airport traffic figures are expected to be announced this week.

igale@thenational.ae

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