Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates which is reportedly in talks on a link-up with Air Malta - carried 17.4 million passengers last year, an increase of 17 per cent over 2014.

The airline said in a statement today that it  operated 97,400 flights which covered 467 million kilometres.

The growth in passenger demand continued to surpass the airline's capacity increase.

Etihad said it carried more than 75 per cent of the 23.3 million passengers who travelled to and from Abu Dhabi International Airport in 2015. With the addition of the airline's equity partners that operate flights into the UAE capital, the combined total rises to 84 per cent of passenger traffic at Abu Dhabi Intemational Airport.

James Hogan, Etihad Airways' President and Chief Executive Officer, said: "In 2015, we were able to bring new competitive choice to millions of travellers, through our award-winning services and through the growing networks of our equity partners. No airline group is doing more to stimulate new competition in the aviation industry."

Etihad Airways introduced six additional destinations to its global route network in 2015, with new flights to Kolkata, Madrid, Edinburgh, Entebbe, Hong Kong, and Dar es Salaam, and a new direct service to Brisbane.

Last year also saw Etihad Airways' fleet boosted with the deployment Of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which entered commercial service on routes to Brisbane, Singapore, Washington DC and Zurich. The Airbus A380 network was expanded with a second service to London Heathrow and new flights to Sydney and New York.

This year, the airline will commence its third daily A380 service to London Heathrow, and will add two new A380 destinations of Melbourne and Mumbai, while the Boeing 787 will start flying to five new cities, namely Perth, Düsseldorf, Shanghai, Istanbul and Johannesburg.

Etihad Airways increased frequencies on 16 existing routes across the world in 2015. These were Bangkok, Chennai, Dammam, Delhi, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, Istanbul, Jeddah, Kochi, Kozhikode, Melboume, Mumbai, Muscat, Seychelles, Tehran and Trivandrum.

Complementing its organic growth, the airline also expanded its codeshare and equity partnerships last year. These partnerships delivered more than five million passengers onto Etihad Airways' flights, an increase of 43 per cent over the 3.5 million passengers in 2014.

A new codeshare agreement was launched with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), while Etihad Airways' existing codeshares with Air Serbia, American Airlines, flynas, Jet Airways, Korean Air, NIKI and S7 Airlines were significantly expanded. As a result, Etihad Airways now offers a combined passenger and cargo network of nearly 600 destinations through its 197 interline and 49 codeshare partnerships.

In April 2015, the airline obtained regulatory approval from Switzerland's Federal Office of Civil Aviation, FOCA, to finalise a 33.3 per cent investment in the Swiss regional carrier, Darwin Airline.

In June, Darwin Airline, trading as Etihad Regional, became the latest addition to Etihad Airways' equity partners network, which also includes airberlin, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia. Etihad Airways' equity partnerships represent the seventh largest global grouping of airlines, together flying more than 100 million guests.

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