By John McCurry
Etihad Cargo continues to record strong growth and the carrier projects that to continue – propelled by new freighters and routes. Cargo grew by 23 percent during the first half 2013 with an uplift of 215,124 tonnes.
“Our growth to date is similar to what we achieved last year and we don’t see reason why that can’t continue,” David Kerr, Etihad’s vice president of cargo, says in a recent interview with Air Cargo World. “We are putting in a stream of investments that provide opportunities for our customers.”
In June, Etihad took delivery of three new freighters – one Airbus A330-200F, one Boeing 777-200F and the company’s first Boeing 747-8F, which was wet leased from Atlas Air – taking the cargo fleet to nine. A 10th freighter, another A330, will be added next May.
“We are taking three freighters across the range of payload,” Kerr says. “We will have the first -8F that we will operate in our own colors.”
Kerr says new routes, including a new round-the-world routing, bode well for the future. The round-the-world freighter routing is in conjunction with Atlas Air Worldwide. It started at the end of May and connects Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub with destinations in Asia, the U.S., South America and Europe.
New routes include twice-a-week flights to Sydney and Sao Paulo.
“We are adding breadth and depth to our market,” Kerr says. “We are adding capacity in markets that are growing.”
Abu Dhabi’s location, in the center of east-west and north-south trade lanes, is helping propel the airline’s growth, Kerr says. He anticipates more growth in Africa where Etihad already has a strong presence.
“The China-to-India market is strong for us, and we see that as continuing to be strong,” he says.
Perishables is a thriving market, particularly out of Africa and Australia. The oil and gas sector in the region is another source of growth. Etihad has a twice-weekly service from Houston supplying this market.
Kerr sees Etihad’s major challenges as staying focused on its customer base and understanding its needs. Anticipated growth will likely require even more freighters by the end of the decade, he says.
“Today, we are around 20 percent of the airline’s revenues and about 45 percent of our capacity is on freighters,” Kerr says. “In order to maintain that growth, we will need to take on new capacity by the end of the decade. We are open to partnerships as well.”
Cargo will also benefit from a growing number of alliances including those with Air Berlin and Ireland-based Aer Lingus. Etihad also recently took a 24-percent stake in India’s Jet Airways, which is awaiting regulatory approval.