ITTN’s Shane Cullen interviews Martin Drew, Senior Vice President of Sales and Cargo at Etihad Airways.
Martin Drew shares “We were the first Middle Eastern airline to operate into Ireland, into Dublin. Ireland has always been a very, very important market for us and continues to be… to be celebrating fifteen years [in Ireland] is a great milestone.”
Martin explains “how quickly business has come back in terms of the demand we’re seeing… it’s pretty incredible. The core drivers of sales include pent-up demand, point-to-point journeys to Abu Dhabi and connecting flights to Australia, ISC (Indian Subcontinent) and South East Asia. In fact, last month it had its highest load factor ever in the history of the airline for the month of June. Equally, Martin shared, “July and August are looking incredibly strong, as is the rest of the year”. With such strong demand, the airline has recently returned to a daily service out of Dublin from an already busy five times a week service.
Martin divulged that they’re “seeing more and more demand now for Abu Dhabi as a destination, evening during the summer” given Abu Dhabi is “such a strong proposition as a destination”. Having recently visited for the first time, I now readily see the appeal. The hotels are impeccable, and the service and standards are second to none. The theme parks are incredible value and without the lengthy queues synonymous with world-class theme parks of this standard. And, everything is proximate – the airport, the hotels, the sights, the attractions and the retail offering. Martin explained that it is only getting better with SeaWorld Abu Dhabi set to open its doors to the public in a few months.
Between then and now there are plenty of events to keep load factors high. The Fifa World Cup is in neighbouring Qatar and Etihad will be operating a minimum of six flights a day from Abu Dhabi to Doha (a mere 45-minute hop) for those that want Abu Dhabi as an attractive base and easy connectivity for the matches. Qatar may have soccer but Abu Dhabi has the Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. This is the largest sporting fixture in the country’s calendar (17th to 20th November) and is more than just a race with passes providing access to the celebrations including world-renowned artists headlining concerts – Swedish House Mafia are confirmed for 2022 with more to follow.
Looking forward, Martin explains what’s in store for the next 15 months, “What we will focus on is, do we have the ability to put more capacity into Dublin… it’s about us working together with our trade partners as a destination… as well as promoting those points beyond Abu Dhabi”.
Servicing the Irish market is a 787 Dreamliner so travellers can be assured of both comfort and luxury. Elsewhere on the network, Etihad Airways has deployed its five Airbus A350s to Chicago, New York and Mumbai with London coming next this October and potential for more destinations as the airline awaits delivery of a further seven of these A350s.
In addition, fresh from earning the accolade of “The Environmental Airline of the Year” by Airline Ratings, Martin explained “today, the aviation sector represents about 3% of total carbon emissions… at the current growth rate, by 2050 it will be as high as 23-24%… that means we need to start now to decarbonise aviation. And at Etihad, this is very much at the top of our agenda. We were quick to come out and commit to reducing our net carbon emissions by 50% by 2035 and be net zero by 2050… everything we do has a link to sustainability… it’s a huge focus area for us”.
Speaking of Alex Keech and Jason Kearns from the Etihad Sales Team based in Ireland, Martin shared that the dynamic duo had “relatively recently joined us and really hit the ground running, both of which ahve really good names in the market… [and] already had very strong relationships with our trade partners”. Martin said the team is doing a wonderful job and is being led by Jeremy Pollock, GM for UK & Ireland. This, he shared, was on the back of the work done by their predecessors, Karen and Shannon, “Those ladies were instrumental in positioning Etihad and promoting Etihad in this market.