Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, speaking at the CAPA Australia Pacific Aviation Summit, stated (07-Aug-2013) Gulf region traffic continues to double international average passenger traffic growth rates thanks to its geographic advantage as a connecting hub. Etihad Airways “cannot play catch up” with more established competitors such as Emirates and Qatar Airways and so pursued its own strategy of equity partnerships and codeshares, in concert with its own organic growth.
Etihad Airways: Gulf continues to double international growth rates
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Gulf airlines in Australia/New Zealand: 2017 could surpass 2016's record growth
Qatar Airways' casual remark in Jan-2016 that it would launch nonstop service to Auckland has resulted in nearly two years of accelerated growth as competitors look to pre-empt Qatar. That, in turn, is driving Qatar to build its presence in Australia and New Zealand – which is disproportionately small compared to the presence of Emirates and Etihad. In Feb-2017 Qatar will finally launch nonstop service to Auckland, making that air service the world's longest flight. After the launch of flights to Australia's secondary city of Adelaide in May-2016, Qatar intends to open service to another smaller market – Canberra.
2016 was the most prominent year for Gulf airlines growing in Australia and New Zealand. Excluding Qatar's proposed Canberra service, and other services under consideration, 2017 will be the third largest year for growth, but depending on how commercial and aeropolitical matters evolve, 2017 could surpass 2016 for growth. So far, there will be more absolute growth from Qatar than Emirates in 2017, by comparison with 2016.
In Australia/NZ Gulf airlines have doubled their presence between 2012 and 2017. In Australia/New Zealand, by 2020, Gulf airlines could create the presence of two Singapore Airlines, an operation which established itself over many decades. Gulf growth has broader implications as their mostly European traffic flows challenge historical Australia-Europe hubs in Asia.
Gulf airlines in 2017: Etihad cuts capacity 4% as Emirates and Qatar begin slowest growth in 5 years
For the first time in over a decade, a Gulf superconnector airline will reduce its annual capacity. Etihad is forecast to cut ASKs by 4% in 2017. Emirates and Qatar Airways will have their slowest growth expansion in a decade, but in terms of net capacity addition 2017's production increase is the slowest in about five years.
Etihad is contracting in all regions except Western Europe and Australia in 2017. The largest cuts will be in South America, North America and Southeast Asia, although this does not necessarily correlate to regional profitability. Despite the reduction Etihad's frequencies will be up 1% in 2017, mostly in Western Europe and South Asia.
Etihad has announced plans to reduce staff members, which it says will be largely through attrition. As it contracts instead of growing, its aircraft commitments – and in particular 787s – may be cancelled or deferred. Etihad's partnership with Lufthansa will result in its airberlin burden being reduced. Etihad may look to sell down European investment airlines, according to unconfirmed press reports.
Yet as Etihad recalibrates under a changed Abu Dhabi government, Qatar Airways continues to grow.