The airline name begins with E, is based in the United Arab Emirates in the Arabian Gulf and it is making waves in the airline and aerospace industries.

This time it is not Emirates. It is Etihad, officially the national airline of the UAE. Yesterday it inked a $7 billion blockbuster order with Airbus for 24 widebody aircraft - including four ultra-large A380s - with options for 12 more.

And the airline is just eight months old. As its chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif Al Nahyan said yesterday: "I hope that today's news shows you just how serious we are about becoming a leading player on the world airline stage, and how the UAE's national airline intends to become a shining example to the world's travelling population."

Launched in November, 2003, Etihad is a full service airline which has established routes to eight destinations to date, including London Heathrow, Munich, Geneva, Beirut and Damascus. This winter, the airline intends to begin services to London Gatwick.

The rapid fleet expansion will be used to ramp up the number of destinations. The A340-500 ultra long-range aircraft are likely to be deployed on non-stop services to the United States and Australia. India is also being eyed as a new destination.

By 2008, the airline's fleet will top 50, according to the airline strategys - all widebody.

Source: Flight Daily News