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Positive Signs of Recovery as Abu Dhabi Airport Reports 5.6% Increase in Passengers

Positive Signs of Recovery as Abu Dhabi Airport Reports 5.6% Increase in Passengers

Positive Signs of Recovery as Abu Dhabi Airport See's 5.6% Increase in Passengers

It’s been a while since any really positive news came out of Abu Dhabi about its ambitious aero-state economy.  Etihad Airways has been battling losses at several of its equity partner airlines – most notably, of course, Alitalia which went into Special Administration on May 2nd.

Thankfully, there is, at last, a reason for cheer.  Etihad’s home and hub airport, Abu Dhabi International has just released passenger figures for April and the results are looking good.

With over 2 million passengers passing through its doors last month, the airport saw a 5.6% increase in passenger traffic on the same month last year.  A 6.1% increase in transfer passengers – Up to 1,311,262 passengers (to be precise) – is also a welcome sign of recovery in Etihad’s fortunes.  The carrier has built its business strategy on using Abu Dhabi as a hub to connect passengers between continents (over two-thirds of the world’s population are within an eight-hour flight from the city).

However, these numbers are nothing compared to neighbouring Dubai International Airport – just an hours drive from Abu Dhabi.  Dubai handled 7,511,431 passengers in March – a 3.8% increase on 2016.  But the airport wanted it the numbers to be higher and blamed the timing of Easter this year for the modest increase.

Majority of Passenger Traffic from India

But it looks like the competition between the two airports is only set to continue.  Both AUH and DXB say India is their top country for passenger traffic.  Last month, passengers travelling to or from India accounted for 18% of traffic at Abu Dhabi.  That was closely followed by Saudi Arabia and then the United Kingdom.

But when you looks at individual cities, London was the clear winner, followed by Bangkok, Doha and Jeddah.  Passenger traffic from London grew sharply by 16% year on year.

Abu Dhabi is already cramped and crowded. Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Airport
Abu Dhabi is already cramped and crowded. Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Airport

Of course, none of these figures shows how well Etihad Airways is performing in the mix.  Qatar Airways has a strong presence at the airport, as do a number of other international airlines.  But there are some signs the state-owned carrier’s performance is improving.

Australian passenger traffic jumped a huge 28% in April.  The massive increase was attributed to Etihad’s new double daily flight to Sydney.  We may see a similar increase in French passenger traffic as Etihad debuts the Airbus A380 aircraft on its Paris route.  The upgraded aircraft offers a capacity of 496 seats compared to the 328-seat Boeing 777.

New Airbus A380 Service for Paris

The A380 will depart Abu Dhabi as EY31 at 2.15 am and arrive in Paris at 7.50 am.  The return flight will leave at 10.40 am as EY32 and land in Abu Dhabi at 7.30pm.  The second daily service (EY37 and EY38) will remain as a Boeing 777 service.

“Paris is one of our busiest and best performing European routes, so the deployment of this upgraded service will provide benefits to travellers to and from Abu Dhabi, and our popular connecting cities across Asia and Australia,” commented Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways CEO.

The new Midfield Terminal will be able to handle 30 million passengers a year
The new Midfield Terminal will be able to handle 30 million passengers a year

Whilst these passenger numbers are impressive they’re nothing compared to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the United States.  ATL welcomes approximately 275,000 passengers a day with 2,500 arrivals and departures daily.  Airlines serving Atlanta fly to 150 U.S. destinations and more than 75 international destinations in 50 countries.

New Terminal Will Cover 700,000 Square Meters

Abu Dhabi International Airport first opened in 1982.  Located 32 miles from the city centre, the airport handled over 23 million passengers in 2015.  Over 30 airlines serve 102 destinations in 56 countries.  But Abu Dhabi expects those numbers to reach over 45 million per year by 2025.

The Midfield Terminal project is well under way to transform what has become a cramped and overcrowded airport.  Covering 700,000 square meters the new terminal will handle 30 million passengers a year – that’s 8,500 passengers per hour at peak times.  When its due to open however is up for debate.

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