Coming to Sydney-London in June, the Etihad A380

Etihad has posted another stunning year of operational growth, and as it seems to always relish doing, left analysts struggling for epithets because it isn’t relating this to its financial performance.

It doesn’t have to. Etihad is in its growth phase.

This annual ritual is about reminding all and sundry that Etihad’s owners are building a world leading airline empire based not just on their Abu Dhabi based peak airline, but an equity and alliance based collection of airlines, which includes airBerlin, Alitalia, Jet Airways (India) and Virgin Australia (in conjunction with Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines.)

These are the main points in its announcement.

Almost 14.8 million passengers flew with Etihad Airways last year, a significant increase of 23 per cent over 2013 levels. The growth in passenger demand continued to outstrip the airline’s capacity increase, highlighting the strength of its long-term growth strategy.

In total, Etihad Airways carried more than 74 per cent of the 19.9 million passengers who travelled through Abu Dhabi International Airport in 2014. With the addition of the airline’s equity partners that operate flights into the UAE capital, the combined total rises to a significant 82 per cent of passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: “Our business model, which focuses on organic network growth, codeshare partnerships and minority equity investments in other airlines, continued to yield positive results in 2014 and surpassed our double-digit targets for passenger and cargo growth.”

Etihad Airways introduced 10 additional destinations to its global route network in 2014, with new services launched to Medina, Jaipur, Los Angeles and Zurich in the first half of the year, and Perth, Rome, Yerevan, Phuket, San Francisco and Dallas in the second half of the year. In addition, frequencies were increased on 23 existing routes across the world in 2014.

Building on its organic growth, the airline also expanded its codeshare and equity partnerships last year. These partnerships delivered over 3.5 million passengers onto Etihad Airways flights, an increase of 40 per cent over the 2.5 million passengers in 2013.

New codeshare agreements were launched with Air Europa, jetBlue, Philippine Airlines, GOL, SAS, Hong Kong Airlines and Aerolineas Argentinas, while Etihad Airways’ existing codeshares with South African Airways, Alitalia and Jet Airways were significantly expanded.

In August 2014, the airline announced a €560 million investment in New Alitalia to acquire a 49 per cent shareholding in the carrier, a 75 per cent interest in Alitalia Loyalty, which operates the MilleMiglia frequent flier program, and five pairs of slots at London’s Heathrow Airport, which will be leased back to Alitalia. The transaction received European Commission merger clearance in November 2014 and became effective on 31 December 2014.

Alitalia is the latest addition to Etihad Airways’ equity partners network, which also includes airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Aer Lingus, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia. An investment is being formalised in Swiss-based Etihad Regional, operated by Darwin Airline.

The growth points for Etihad in its own right in the Australian market this year include daily A380s between Sydney and London via Abu Dhabi and daily non-stops between Brisbane and its Gulf hub with 787-9s both from the start of June.

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