Etihad Airways plans to increase Abu Dhabi-Beijing frequency from five times weekly to daily this year and launch non-stop services to Shanghai in 2011 or 2012, subject to CAAC approval (China Daily, 27-May-2010). According to CEO, James Hogan, the carrier is operating with an 81% load factor on its Abu Dhabi-Beijing sector.
Etihad to increase Abu Dhabi-Beijing frequency to daily
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Lufthansa and Etihad: equity tie up could further align mutual strategy, but marriage unlikely
Greater cooperation between Lufthansa and Etihad reflects their local and global challenges growing in quantity and complexity. Contact between the two has led to speculation that the partnership could radically expand to include an equity tie up, with rumoured merger talks.
Their initial Dec-2016 codeshare announcement was, in practical terms, small but showed the possibility, as they stated, to expand cooperation. However, it would be a leap to go from their handful of codeshares to a 17-Jan-2017 article from Italian daily newspaper Il Messaggero that Etihad could invest in Lufthansa on the way to a possible merger between the two. A subsequent denial in a Reuters story that "A financial stake is out of the question at the moment", does little to dispel the rumour. Were it not for the last three words of that statement the rumour would lack credibility.
There is certainly logic for a deeper partnership - and the two have danced this waltz before. Equity involvement from airlines can cement partnerships, add to board influence and partially allow one side to gain financially from any matter it feels it is compromising away. Nevertheless, there are obstacles to a full blown merger, and even to Etihad's taking a 30% to 40% stake. A marriage between the new bedfellows does not seem an immediate prospect. Nonetheless the logic is there for a move; and the mere fact of a potential move is sufficient to rock the equilibrium.
Middle East Fleet Report:Middle East is high on growth aircraft orders, mostly widebodies
The Middle East region has the highest ratio of in service to on order aircraft (1.0 to 0.94). For every one aircraft in service in Feb-2017 (1459) there is nearly one on order (1368). The Middle East has the fourth largest regional backlog, much lower than the 4600 aircraft on order in Asia Pacific and lower than the 2200 aircraft on order in each of North America and Europe. Unlike North America and Europe, most new aircraft in the Middle East are for growth, not replacement.