Etihad is soaring into its 20th anniversary, celebrating two dynamic decades since its inaugural flight from Abu Dhabi to Beirut on November 12, 2003. It is a journey of remarkable achievements, including its first flight to Australia in 2007 and the creation of the renowned Residence.
From a solitary flight to a single destination to a network of daily flights across 70 global locations, Etihad’s 20-year odyssey has seen the airline’s fleet expand to 79 aircraft and a workforce rise from 1,761 in 2004 to 10,000 in 2023.
Read on for a timeline of Etihad’s 20-year journey.
- Launch of the UAE’s national airline by royal decree.
- Ceremonial flight to Al Ain, covering all seven emirates.
- Inaugural commercial flight to Beirut.
- Recognition as the World’s Leading New Airline by World Travel Awards.
- First European destination flight to London.
- The first African route opened to Cairo.
- Introduction of Etihad Crystal Cargo.
- Reached 1 million guests in a single year.
- North American expansion began with Toronto.
- Third consecutive World Travel Awards win for Leading New Airline.
- Launch of the Etihad Guest programme.
2007: Begins flights to Sydney and Brisbane
- The inaugural flights to Sydney and Brisbane.
- Awarded Middle East’s Leading Airline.
- Initiation of Hajj flights to Jeddah and Medina.
- 34% growth in passenger numbers.
- Opening of the second runway at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
- Record-breaking aircraft order at Farnborough Airshow.
2009: Begins flights to Melbourne
- The inaugural flights to Melbourne.
- Formula 1™: Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title sponsorship.
- Partnership with Manchester City FC.
- Opening of Terminal 3 in Abu Dhabi
- Milestone for female Emirati cadet pilots.
- Etihad Guest membership surpasses 1 million.
- The first airline to operate the Airbus A330-200F.
- Manchester City FC’s stadium was renamed Etihad Stadium.
- Introduction of stopover packages.
- Reception of the first Boeing 777 freighter.
- Over 45 million guests have flown since 2003.
- Introduction of on-board Wi-Fi.
- Rebranding of Etihad Crystal Cargo to Etihad Cargo.
- Service expansion to all inhabited continents.
- World’s Leading Cabin Crew by World Travel Awards.
2014: First Airbus A380 added to fleet with the introduction of The Residence
- Airbus A380 joins the fleet.
- Begins flights to Perth
- Launch of new livery and cabin crew uniforms.
- US Immigration pre-clearance facility opens in Abu Dhabi.
- Introduction of The Residence in-flight suite.
2015: First Boeing 787 Dreamliner added to fleet
- Boeing 787 Dreamliner joins the fleet.
- Awards for Cargo Airline of the Year and Airline of the Year.
- World’s best First Class by World Travel Awards.
- Eighth consecutive World Travel Awards win for Leading Airline.
- Opening of the First-Class Lounge & Spa.
- Recognition as Most Innovative Airline by the Telegraph ULTRAs Awards.
- Skytrax awards for First Class excellence.
- Charitable donation for every ticket sold in the UAE’s Year of Giving.
- Airbus A340 phased out.
- Launch of Economy Space.
- Record for highest pop-up restaurant.
- Introduction of new amenity kits.
- Return flight for Pope Francis after UAE visit.
- Launch of the Greenliner programme.
- Special Olympics partnership.
- First UAE-made biofuel flight.
- Fleet grounding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Evacuation flight from Wuhan.
- Opening of Etihad Arena on Yas Island.
- UAE’s 50th National Day special livery.
- Launch of carbon offset programs.
2022: First Airbus A350 added to fleet
- Airbus A350 joins the fleet.
- Operation of EcoFlights.
- Resumption of flights to Chinese gateways post-pandemic.
- Airline celebrates 15 years of flying to Australia
2023: Opening of Terminal A new Airport in Abu Dhabi
- Opening of Terminal A at the new Abu Dhabi Airport.
- Airbus A380 returns to service.
- Network expansion with new destinations and better flight times.
- Introduction of Armani/Casa Business Class amenities.
- Complimentary Wi-Fi for loyalty members.
To celebrate 20 years in the sky, Etihad has a new inflight culinary menu featuring dishes inspired by the airline’s home, the UAE, and customised items reflecting the destinations Etihad flies to.
The airline will also unveil a touch of nostalgia with its retro-inspired amenity range in First and Business class. Inspired by the iconic 2003 aircraft livery, the amenity bags contain travel-size beauty products from the renowned skincare label ESPA.
Commenting on the airline’s milestone, Antonoaldo Neves, Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our journey so far has been about more than flights; it has been about bringing people and cultures together, creating strong connections, and making Abu Dhabi a key travel hub.
“Looking ahead, we have big plans. By 2030, we aim to double our fleet and welcome three times as many guests, reaching 33 million people each year. We will increase visitors to our home, Abu Dhabi and continue to connect travellers across the globe through our growing network.”
Etihad has discounted fares to many destinations across its economy and business class network. The sale is live until 12 November for travel between 4 December 2023 and 15 March 2024.
For more, head to etihad.com
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