The tale of two airlines: One falters while other reports double-digit increase


It is ultimately a sign of the volatility of the current economic climate: some airlines are profiting, while others simply can’t. Take United Airlines and Etihad Airways for an example. The former has reported a decline in traffic, while the latter is claiming record passenger growth.

In a recent release, United Airlines has said its preliminary mainline traffic results for December 2008. The company reported a December mainline passenger load factor of 79.9 percent. Total scheduled mainline revenue passenger miles (RPMs) decreased in December by 11.5 percent on a capacity decrease of 12.7 percent in scheduled mainline available seat miles (ASMs) compared with the same period in 2007.

Meanwhile, Etihad Airways said it flew more than six million passengers in 2008, which is a double-digit increase (34 percent) compared to 2007. The Middle East carrier, now on its fifth year of operations in 2008, said it carried 6,021,931 passengers and saw an average seat factor rise from 68 percent to 75 percent.

“Despite the impact of the global economic downturn, Etihad performed extremely well in 2008 and we hit our target of flying more than six million passengers during the year,” said Etihad Airways’ chief executive James Hogan,. “Etihad now has a flight network of 50 global destinations… It is pleasing to note Etihad’s pivotal role in the growth of Abu Dhabi as the emirate becomes a global capital for business and tourism.”

Etihad Airways’ fleet also saw a boost with the delivery of nine new aircraft to put the total number of aircraft to 42. The Middle East carrier also introduced six new routes last year including–Beijing, Minsk, Almaty, Kozhikode, Chennai and Moscow.

Etihad finished off 2008 as its most successful year ever and on December 19 carried a record 20,937 passengers making it the airline’s busiest day.