Etihad Airways today took delivery of its first Airbus A330-200 freighter, which it plans to deploy on routes to China and Africa from its Abu Dhabi base from September.

Speaking at a handover ceremony on board the A330-200F at the Farnborough Air Show, Etihad chief executive James Hogan said he has "no doubt the success of this aircraft will allow us to continue to develop" Etihad Crystal Cargo.

The carrier has two A330-200Fs on order and is the launch customer for the aircraft. Hogan says Etihad may order additional A330-200Fs further down the line as Etihad's cargo division evolves. A rebound in the Asia Pacific freight market has helped the airline lift its freight volume in the first half of 2010 by 12%.

Etihad A330-200F
 © Airbus

Etihad has been much quieter at this year's show than it was at Farnborough 2008, when it placed a mammoth firm order for 35 Boeing 787-9s, 10 777-300ERs, 25 Airbus A350 XWBs, 10 A380s and 20 A320s. "We made clear that our 2008 order was to take us to 2020 and beyond," says Hogan. "With the order book we have we can plan the evolution of our network. This is a progressive build."

Etihad failed to reach its profitability target for this year, but Hogan insists the carrier is "well on track" to break even at the end of 2011. "I'm very confident that we will hit our target, move into profitability and, more importantly, stay there," he says.

The carrier says it experienced its best first half performance yet in the first six months of this year, with passenger numbers up 11% and load factor rising to 72.5% from 71.5% compared to the same period in 2009.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news