UAE carrier reveals that single-aisle aircraft will figure in its fleet expansion plans

Etihad Airways expects to complete negotiations by mid-year with Airbus over A380 delivery delays and potential interim capacity. The all-widebody operator is also acquiring its first single-aisle aircraft.

Executive vice-president finance James Rigney says the Abu Dhabi-based carrier will expand its passenger fleet from 22 to 31 aircraft over the next nine months, but beyond 2007 it is not committed to any additional aircraft except four A380s, which are now due for delivery in 2009 and 2010.

etihad 777-300er 
© Etihad Airways   
Etihad's widebody fleet comprises both Airbus and Boeing types, including five 777-300ERs

Rigney, who moved to Etihad from Gulf Air in October with new chief executive James Hogan, says Etihad's newly completed business plan calls for continued rapid network and fleet expansion. He is confident the carrier will secure the additional capacity it needs for 2008 and beyond within the next two months.

"There will be significant growth in the next five years. We're working with Airbus on resolving our A380 order and we believe we'll come to a resolution in the next two months," Rigney says. Etihad originally ordered four A380s in 2004 for delivery in 2007.

The carrier currently operates 11 A330-200s, one A340-300, four A340-500s, one Boeing 767 and five 777-300ERs. Before the end of this year it will take five more A330-200s and four A340-600s. Etihad is engaged in discussions with both Airbus and Boeing over its narrowbody and medium-size widebody requirements.

Rigney would not disclose details, but he says the new business plan envisages Etihad adding narrowbodies to help further develop its Abu Dhabi hub. He also says A350s and 787s are being considered as part of Etihad's 10-year fleet plan. The airline is aiming to break even in 2010.

Etihad also wet-leases two Airbus A300-600 freighters from Air Atlanta Icelandic. Rigney says operating its own freighters "is a very important part of our business plan", but this aspect of the plan has not yet been completed. Cargo now accounts for 25% of Etihad's revenues, which Rigney says are projected to reach $1.3 billion in 2007.

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Source: Flight International