02142016Sun
Last update: Sun, 14 Feb 2016 08am

Etihad not planning to use cash pile for new planes

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan on Tuesday dashed Boeing and Airbus's hopes of a spending spree by the Abu Dhabi airline following its success in raising 700 million dollars in investment capital. Etihad said last month that some of the cash raised from institutional investors would go on investment in fleet for itself and the string of partner airlines in which it has acquired share stakes.

But it now seems that meant investment of the kind Alitalia is now undertaking to fit out its first class cabins with leather from luxury furniture maker Poltrona Frau - rather than new planes. Hogan told a press conference in Rome that the company was focusing on ensuring its own and its partners' fleets were used as efficiently as possible. And he dismissed speculation about possible deals at next month's Dubai airshow.

"We are not doing any deals on aircraft at the airshow," Hogan said on the sidelines of a press conference called to reassure an Italian audience that Etihad's plans for reviving Alitalia remain on track, despite disappointing first-half results and the shock departure of its chief executive last month. Hogan said Etihad had completed its fleet planning up to 2040 with major deals done in 2008 and 2013. "If you go back and look at the deals we signed in 2008 and 2013 you will see that we signed firm orders, we signed options and purchase rights. In our portfolio, our order book we have what we need," the Australian executive said.

Hogan said he saw Alitalia's long-haul fleet rising from 24 currently to 40, and "why not 50" over the medium term. But for the moment, any expansion in the Italian carrier's long-haul network will mean making better use of its own planes and leasing extra capacity from Etihad, which has a 49 percent stake after rescuing Alitalia from bankruptcy last year. "Each airline orders their own aircraft," Hogan said of the kind of relationship Etihad has with India's Jet Airways, Air Berlin, Air Serbia and Air Seychelles, as well as Alitalia.

"What we have is the capability to move aircraft into other airlines because the deals we signed with both Boeing and Airbus means we can move them across. "Normally airlines do their own specific deal because they are confidential agreements but because we invested in these other airlines we are able to move both aircraft and engines across the group." The revamp of Alitalia's cabins and service at the front end of its planes is projected to cost 170 million euros over the next 12 months and is part of a broader investment programme of 280 million euros which will include new financial and organisational systems and a refurb of its passenger lounges world-wide.

This will account for over half of the cash it has raised this year through a 375 million euro bond issued in July and its share of the Etihad cash call (123 million dollars). In theory, Alitalia could soon be in a position to buy new planes but that looks unlikely with Hogan stressing its fleet was relatively young at an average age of eight years per aircraft and the company still losing money.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015