Travel

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad wants answers on Airbus A380 cracks

ABU DHABI, April 3 — Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flagship carrier which is due to get its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2014, said it wants more clarity from the planemaker about wing cracks on the aircraft.

European air safety regulators ordered checks in February for Airbus (EAD.PA) A380 wing cracks for the entire superjumbo fleet after safety engineers found cracks in almost all the planes inspected.

Etihad is due to get its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2014. — Reuters file picEtihad is due to get its first Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2014. — Reuters file pic“Obviously we are very concerned about this defect. They have given us assurances that they’ve been rectified ... we need them to be qualified,” Etihad chief executive James Hogan told reporters at the firm’s Abu Dhabi headquarters.

Larger rival Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the A380, said in March it planned to seek compensation from Airbus after complaining of widespread disruption and an expected loss of revenue.

Etihad has an order of 10 Airbus A380s pending, with the first due for delivery at the end of 2014.

Unlisted Etihad has been on an acquisition spree recently and reported higher first-quarter revenues today on increased passenger numbers and network expansion.

It acquired 30 per cent of Germany’s Air Berlin last year and took a 40-per cent stake in Air Seychelles in February.

But Hogan said the carrier was not interested in buying a stake in loss-making Air France and there were no current discussions with Irish airline Aer Lingus.

“We continue to look at opportunities. That’s reflected in what we did with Air Berlin and Air Seychelles,” said Hogan who told an Irish newspaper in February that Etihad was interested in talks with the Irish government over its 25-per cent stake in Aer Lingus.

When asked if active talks were going on over Aer Lingus, he said: “There are no talks.”

Etihad reported a 28-per cent rise in quarterly revenues to US$989 million (RM3 billion), up from US$770 million in the year-ago period.

Hogan said the airline expected to generate revenues of US$5 billion in 2012 and to be profitable over the year. The carrier posted its first annual profit in 2011 since its creation nine years ago, notching up a small US$14 million profit.

“There are challenges in our region. But I’m bullish and hope to achieve profits this year,” Hogan said.

Average seat factor, a measure of capacity utilisation, was 76.5 per cent for the first quarter and the airline carried 2.36 million passengers during the period. — Reuters