There’s good news and some bad news for Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. Let’s start with the good news, which has seen Etihad get a significant competitive advantage over its Persian Gulf neighbours. As previously reported, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has lifted the ‘Laptop Ban’ at Abu Dhabi – It’s a major boost for Etihad, meaning that passengers can now take laptops and other electronics into the cabin on Etihad Airways flights to the United States.
For the really good cabin crew recruitment news scroll to the bottom of the article…
Since March, Etihad along with its rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways (amongst others) had been forced to compel their passengers to check electronics into their hold luggage. On top of the obvious safety risks (who wants to run the risk of a lithium power pack going up in flames in the hold), the ban had seen passengers turn away from Etihad in search of alternative flights.
Etihad had been trying to mitigate the impact of the ban and had even gone to the effort of loaning iPad’s to their Business and First Class passengers. Both Emirates and Qatar Airways had introduced similar schemes. Yet, despite their best efforts, Etihad has been forced to drop San Francisco from its route network this fall due to waning passenger figures.
No doubt, Etihad will be hoping that passenger numbers on its U.S. flights now exceed the levels seen before the Laptop Ban was introduced. After all, Etihad is now the only airline in the region that doesn’t have the tough restrictions in place. Although, how long Etihad will enjoy this competitive advantage remains to be seen.
Abu Dhabi Already Has a Pre-Clearance Facility
The change of heart by U.S. officials was first hinted at last Wednesday when the DHS said airports around the world would have to comply with new security measures for their U.S. bound flights. Abu Dhabi was said to have gained approval so quickly because the airport already has a U.S. Pre-clearance facility that’s operated by the United States Customs and Border Protection.
Nonetheless, both Emirates and Qatar Airways have said their respective airports in Dubai and Doha will be willing to fully comply with the new security procedures. If they can get the necessary improvements made fast – and anything is possible in the Middle East – then expect the Laptop Ban to be lifted soon at those airport’s as well.
But Passengers Numbers at Abu Dhabi are Falling
That could cast a shadow on Etihad’s good fortune but that’s not the only reason for concern. Abu Dhabi International Airport released its latest passenger figure results up to the end of May and it’s not looking good. In May, just 1,941,959 passengers travelled to, from or through the airport – that’s a -2% drop in passengers compared to the same month last year.
Even more worrying, the number of aircraft movements (arrivals and departures) have dropped by -5%. There’s just a glimmer of hope when you look at the total number of passengers for the year so far – that’s seen a modest increase of 1.8% to 10,165,506 passengers.
A spokesperson for the airport explained: “May has always been one of the slowest months of the year being just before the summer holidays rush.” Ahmed Al Shamsi, the chief operations officer went on to say the drop in numbers was due to a change from transit to point-to-point flights operating at the airport.
Airports Expects Just 2% Passenger Increase in 2017
That being said, the airport’s chief executive, Abdul Majeed Al-Khoori has been a little more open with Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday. Al-Khoori noted Abu Dhabi would handle around 25 million passengers throughout 2017. That compares to 24.5 million in 2016 – A mere 2% increase compared to the 5.1% improvement the airport witnessed in 2016.
Speaking about the airport’s performance, a spokesperson commented:”This has been a tough year for aviation globally but for the region as well,”
“We have seen some slowdown in the growth of the airlines that use Abu Dhabi Airport, we also have the regional political situation, these factors are all playing into the slightly slower growth.”
The Top Three Destinations
Here are the top three destinations by passenger numbers at Abu Dhabi airport:
- India – Nearly always tops the list and accounts for 21% of all passengers at the the airport. Although May only saw a modest increase of 0.6%.
- Saudi Arabia – Passenger figures have risen sharply (up 7.8% in May). The airport puts this down to Umrah but the fallout from the Qatar blockade may also be helping Abu Dhabi on this one.
- The United Kingdom – Always popular with British tourists and business travellers and a huge increase in May of 12% for passengers travelling to or from the UK.
Major Cabin Crew Recruitment News
Meanwhile, there’s some fairly amazing news for candidates wishing to join Etihad Airways as cabin crew. This morning, the airline’s recruitment team sent out the above email to candidates who passed the recruitment process but hadn’t yet been offered a training course.
Etihad had been forced to suspend its cabin crew recruitment campaign in December. There hadn’t been any indication how long the suspension would go on for – until today. Not only has Etihad announced it will begin training courses again soon but it has even advertised the first Assessment Day’s in over six months.
The Upcoming Assessment Days
So far the following three Assessment Day’s have been announced:
- Casablanca – 08th August 2017
- London – 14th August 2017
- Johannesburg – 22nd August 2017
Remember, these are ‘invite only’ Assessment Day’s so you’ll need to submit your application online, via Etihad’s official careers website first.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.