Established by a royal decree as the national airline of the United Arab Emirates in February, 2003, Etihad Airways started its services in November with a ceremonial flight to Al Ain.
In June, 2004, after placing a USD 8 billion order for new aircraft, the first direct flight to Geneva took place, followed by Brussels and Toronto in October, 2005.
In only 3 years, by June, 2006, Etihad Airways reached 30 destinations, setting a target of 70 by 2010.
Etihad expects to carry up to seven million Guests by the end of 2009, a remarkable increase on the 340,000 that travelled with them in 2004.
Etihad Airways has received over 30 awards since its inauguration in 2003, being awarded a four star rating by Skytrax.
In November, 2009, Etihad Airways won the «World’s Leading Airline» award at the World Travel Awards in London, making this a first for any Middle East airline. Etihad Airways received this award for five consecutive years, until 2013.
In August 2010, Etihad Airways signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement with Virgin Australia (Etihad Airways has a 22% equity stake in Virgin Australia Holdings).
In December 2011, Etihad Airways announced it had taken a 29.21% stake in airberlin, Germany’s second largest airline and Europe’s sixth largest airline.
In 2012, Etihad Airways acquired a 40% stake in the national airline of the Republic of Seychelles, Air Seychelles, and a 2.987% stake in Aer Lingus (increased to 4.11% in 2014).
In 2013, Etihad Airways acquired 49% of Air Serbia, the national airline of the Republic of Serbia (formerly Jat Airways), and concluded the transaction for the subscription of a 24% minority equity stake in Jet Airways, a full-service airline with one of the youngest fleets in the world.
At the 2013 Dubai Airshow, Etihad Airways announced the acquisition of a 33.3% stake in Darwin Airline. From March 2014, the Swiss carrier was rebranded as Etihad Regional.
In August 2014, Etihad Airways agreed to take a 49% stake in the Italian flag carrier Alitalia for an estimated sum of 560 Million Euros.
In 2014, Etihad established Etihad Airways Partners, its own airline alliance. Etihad holds minority equity investments in the participating airlines, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, and Jet Airways. Etihad also holds a stake in Virgin Australia, which is not officially listed as an Etihad Airways Partner.
In 2015, Etihad’s A380 First Apartment was named the world’s best First Class due to its luxurious innovation. The First Apartment, launched in December 2014 on Airbus A380 only, has a large leather armchair and separate bed of 6 feet and 10 inches, as well as a 24-inch (61 cm) TV monitor.
In 2016, Etihad won Air Transport World’s 2016 Airline of the Year award, as well as the World’s Leading Airline 2016 award at the 23rd edition of World Travel Awards. As of October 2016, Etihad Airways is rated as a 5-star airline by Skytrax.
In July 2017, Etihad sold its entire 33.3% holding in Darwin Airline, which was operating as Etihad Regional. Adria Airways took over Darwin Airline, but the later ceased operations in December 2017.
In 2017, Etihad achieved its best operational on-time performance (OTP) results since 2009, recording network punctuality of 82% for flight departures and 86% for arrivals. Etihad Airways has also been placed in the Top 20 safest airlines in the world by AirlineRatings.com.
In January 2018, Etihad introduced a new baggage policy, setting the allowance for all markets, excluding the US and Canada, based on total weight rather than the number of bags checked in. With the switch to a weight-based baggage policy, Economy Class passengers will be entitled to 23 to 35 kg in Economy Class, depending on the fare purchased, Business Class passengers 40 kg for all fare categories, while First Class customers will enjoy a 50 kg allowance. Exceptions apply to select markets.
From its Abu Dhabi hub, Etihad Airways flies to 116 passenger and cargo destinations. Etihad Airways has a fleet of 108 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and a firm order of more than 170 aircraft, including 62 Airbus A350s, 52 Boeing 787s and 25 Boeing 777s.
No deadly incidents involving Etihad Airways have been recorded so far.