By Ven Sreenivasan
Abu Dhabibased Etihad Airways says it continues to enjoy good growth in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East despite the twin threats of the global credit crunch and massive oil fuel prices.
Cramer Ball, Etihad's regional general manager for Asia-Pacific South and Australasia, said at the opening of the airline's Singapore office yesterday: "The operating environment for us is very strong and not abating. Despite challenging economic conditions elsewhere, we continue to expand aggressively and profitably in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific.
"Of course we will have to manage the fuel situation, as fuel is a huge part of our operating cost. But being a young airline with a new and fuel efficient fleet helps us."
Etihad, which started operations about four years ago, operates three flights a week through Singapore to Brisbane.
Set up in July 2003 by royal decree issued by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Etihad was established with initial capital of 500 million AED (S$185.9 million).
Since then it has enjoyed rapid growth. In 2004 it placed an unprecedented US$8 billion order for new aircraft - five Boeing 777-300ERs and 24 Airbuses, including four A380s.
Mr Ball, who was previously with Ansett, Qantas and Gulf Air, hinted yesterday that the airline is ready to place another new order - including for A380s - as early as next month.
He suggested that Etihad could increase flights and frequencies through Singapore and regional countries.
The opening of a Singapore office in Suntec Tower Two is a "strong signal" of the airline's commitment to Singapore and the region, he said.
This article was first published in The Business Times on June 27, 2008.