Etihad will not decide on purchasingwide-body freighters until plans forthe new cargo facilities at Abu Dhabiairport are finalised, according toSandra Taglieber, cargo spokespersonfor the airline.
The carrier has been considering both the 777-200LRF and the A330freighter, but Taglieber says a decisionwill not be reached anytime soon. "Itis not a priority right now. It has to gohand in hand with the plans for the newairport, as we can only add cargo capacityif we have the facilities to handle it,"she says. No increase in the carrier’sthree-strong A300-600 freighter fleetis currently envisaged either.
Plans for the new cargo facilities aspart of Abu Dhabi’s massive $6.8bnupgrade have yet to be concluded, witheven their site still not being settled, accordingto insiders. A problem with thepreferred site, near the new passengerterminals, is a seasonal lake; consultantsare still deciding if this can be filledin or not. An alternative site for theterminal, further from the passengerfacilities, would be less satisfactory,given the high percentage of Etihad’scargo that is transit.
Officially, the first phase of the newcargo facilities are supposed to openin 2009 or 2010, with the current facilitybeing knocked down then. ButAbu Dhabi Airport Handling Services(ADAS) are still investing in the currentfacility, installing an ETV and lookingfor partners to work on bar-coding orRFID tagging, with the aim of boostingits throughput.
Roland Blaney, ADAS’ commercialdevelopment manager, says theseimprovements will give the facility acapacity of 300,000 tonnes a year, comparedto a design capacity of 87,000tonnes and current throughput ofaround 200,000 tonnes. 134,181 tonnesof this in 2006 were accounted for by Etihad, nearly doubling its 2005 total,but other airlines are being attractedto Abu Dhabi too: on 7 December,China Southern started calling with aB747-400F, for example.
Despite the lack of new freightercapacity, Etihad Crystal Cargo will haveplenty of new capacity to fill in 2007 dueto the growth in the airline’s belly capacity,with three A330-200s and threelong range A340-500s joining the fleetin the coming months. Two A380s arealso due to join the fleet in 2008, withtwo more on order.
New routes with the aircraft willinclude thrice weekly service to Sydneyon 26 March, going daily on 29June; separate thrice weekly servicesto Brussels and Toronto in June, athrice weekly service to Dublin inAugust; and four flights a week toMilan Malpensa in September. Frequencieswill also be boosted on manyexisting routes.
Â¨C Peter Conway