Writer: Joseph Ghandour
Its First Class doesn’t have seats, it has suites. It operates a Six Senses spa out of its Abu Dhabi and London First and Business lounges. It’s won the World Travel Awards Middle East’s Leading Airline award every year since 2007 (this year is no exception). As far as Bespoke is concerned, Etihad is the best way of taking to the skies.
In all, this has been an excellent year for the Emirates’ national airline. It’s been ranked 2011’s Airline of the Year by Arabian Business and boasts a 5-star rating for its Business and First Class from Skytrax.
Currently operating more than 1,200 flights per week to 86 destinations in 50 countries, it’s easy to forget that Etihad’s first flight was in 2003 but this rapid expansion is what has made the airline the fastest growing in history. What’s more, a raging global recession has not slowed that growth down. Etihad recently added seven new destinations, hired 800 new staff and increased existing services to a number of key destinations.
By the end of 2011, Etihad expects to have carried 8.4 million passengers, an 8.3 per cent increase over 2010 and after posting a 28 per cent rise in revenue for the first half of the year, it should turn a profit for the first time since its inception. If you think that’s impressive, in the words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet”.
“By 2020, Etihad expects to be carrying 25 million passengers a year to some 100 destinations,” ceo James Hogan explained. “It expects to have increased its staff from 8,000 people to 27,000 people and to operate a fleet of 155 aircraft.”
Ambitious? Certainly. But we say the airline’s plans to introduce live TV and internet next year as well as on-board chefs for First Class passengers will make its suites, with their 23-inch flat-screens, personal wardrobes, ultra-comfortable pyjamas (the women’s version has nifty diamante-encrusted zips) and personal refrigerators even more luxurious. Sounds like they’re off to a flying start.