Etihad Airways has come a long way in 18 months. From a low point after the COVID-19 outbreak, Etihad has steadily rebuilt its operations and network. Now, with vaccinations being rolled out globally and the northern winter flying season beckoning, Etihad has restored almost all of its pre-COVID network.
Etihad almost back to its pre-COVID network
In March 2020, as COVID-19 began to bite, the UAE Government temporarily suspended all passenger services to and from the UAE. For several months, Etihad was restricted to flying cargo flights and ad hoc repatriation services.
“These are unprecedented times, and unprecedented decisions are being made,” said Etihad CEO Tony Douglas at the time.
It wasn’t until July 2020 that the UAE began to unwind its rules on inbound and outbound travel. That allowed Etihad to begin resuming some scheduled passenger flights. It has taken some 14 months, but the Abu Dhabi-based airline is back and now flying to 65 destinations across five continents.
“In terms of the number of destinations, we’re flying almost the full network in terms of destinations,” Mr Douglas said recently in an exclusive webinar interview with Simple Flying.
Etihad back flying to 65 destinations worldwide
According to Etihad’s website, the airline is flying to 65 destinations worldwide. That includes 14 airports around the Indian Subcontinent, four airports in North America, nine airports in Asia, two airports in the southwest Pacific, 21 airports in Europe, and 11 airports around the Middle East and Africa.
Etihad’s 14 destinations around the Indian Subcontinent include Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Kochi, Lahore, Male, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Trivandrum.
A little further east, Etihad’s Asian destinations include Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Phuket, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo. Down in the southwest Pacific, flights to Sydney and Melbourne continue.
Europe is an Etihad hotspot with flights to 21 destinations, although three are seasonal services and slated to end soon. Etihad flies to Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Istanbul, London, Madrid, Malaga, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Mykonos, Paris, Rome, Santorini, Vienna, and Zurich.
Northern summer seasonal services to Malaga will end on September 15. Etihad flights to Mykonos and Santorini will also end on September 11 and 12, respectively.
Closer to home, Etihad’s 15 Middle Eastern and African destinations include Amman. Bahrain, Beirut, Cairo, Casablanca, Dammam, Doha, Jeddah, Kuwait, Muscat, Nairobi, Rabat, Riyadh, Seychelles, and Tel Aviv.
Finally, Etihad’s North American footprint includes flights to New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Washington DC.
Still room for network growth at Etihad
It is an impressive recovery, but there’s still room for Etihad to grow. There are some gaping holes in the airline’s network. African airports south and west of Nairobi remain uncharted territory.
In the Americas, Etihad’s most southern airport is now Washington Dulles, and there are many airports between Dulles and Buenos Aires. Western North American airports are also off Etihad’s current departures board.
But it is a step-by-step recovery driven by the bottom line. CEO Tony Douglas says passengers loads are yet to reach pre-COVID levels. In July, Etihad’s busiest month since COVID-19 begun, the average passenger load was approximately 40%. In 2019, passenger loads averaged 78%.
However, cargo rates are at all-time highs, and Etihad is reaping the benefits of that. Cargo revenues and substantial cuts to the airline’s cost base have allowed Etihad to offset passenger operations losses and rebuild the network.