For the first time in its eight-year history, Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates turned a profit: $14 million. The company’s operations in Pakistan for a big part of its financial success, accounting for between 10% and 12% of its global revenues.
“This is an historic day for the airline and an amazing achievement for an airline just eight years old. Five years ago, we said we would be profitable by 2011,” said James Hogan, President and CEO of Etihad Airways at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Etihad is the third largest global airline in Pakistan, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), bested only by UAE rival Emirates and Saudi Arabian Airlines. Meanwhile, Pakistan is one of the top ten revenue generating countries for Etihad.
“The annual growth rate of Pakistani passengers for Etihad Airways is in double-digits,” said Amer Khan, the airline’s general manager for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Etihad operates 23 flights every week from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi, with daily flights from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and two flights a week from Peshawar. This is the maximum number of flights currently allowed to the airline by the government of Pakistan.
It is unclear whether the airline will be requesting permission for more flights from Pakistan over the coming year, though officials at Etihad suggested that Pakistani routes are amongst the airline’s highly profitable ones. Many Pakistanis use Etihad to travel to Europe and North America, via Abu Dhabi. In addition, the large Pakistani expatriate population in the UAE also travel frequently on Etihad.
Etihad flew 8.3 million passengers in 2011, up 17% from the previous year. The airline is now targeting reaching 10 million passengers, according to its CEO.