(Adds 2017 forecast, quotes, background)
DUBAI Feb 8 Etihad Airways faces "another
challenging year", Group Chief Executive James Hogan said on
Wednesday, adding the Abu Dhabi-based carrier would "expand
prudently and efficiently" this year.
Gulf carriers are under pressure to adapt to slowing growth
after years of rapid expansion. Two weeks ago, Etihad said it
was conducting a company-wide strategic review and Hogan would
step down in the second half of 2017.
The review could include adjustments to the network of
equity partnerships with other carriers that Hogan used to
engineer Etihad's rapid growth.
"We remain optimistic and have every belief that our robust
business model will succeed and, most importantly, stand the
test of time," Hogan said in an emailed statement.
Two of the major airlines in which Etihad has invested, Air
Berlin and Alitalia, are losing money, adding to
pressure on Etihad's earnings caused by slowing growth in the
Middle East's aviation market.
Etihad said annual passenger traffic growth slowed in 2016.
It carried 18.5 million passengers, up six percent on the
previous year, but down from 17 percent growth in 2015.
It was Etihad's slowest annual passenger growth rate in at
least the past seven years, though it has added over 11 million
passengers during the period.
Hogan said Etihad's model of "diversity of businesses, cost
effective synergies and global spread of risk" benefited the
airline in a "very tough business environment."
Equity and codeshare partnerships contributed 5.5 million
passengers onto Etihad flights in 2016, an increase of 9 percent
on the previous year.
(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Jason Neely and