December 3, 2015 / 5:19 PM / in 2 years

Etihad Airways bookings dip after Paris attacks: CEO

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Etihad Airways had a dip in bookings for travel from Europe to the Middle East after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks and has stepped up vigilance for potential security threats, Chief Executive James Hogan said Thursday in an interview.

An Airbus A380 rolls out of a paint hangar during a branding ceremony of Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the German headquarters of aircraft company Airbus, in Hamburg-Finkenwerder September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

The Abu Dhabi-based airline has seen reservations rebound in the past week ahead of the peak travel period around Christmas and New Years, Hogan said. Partners Alitalia [CAITLA.UL] and Air Seychelles saw dips of bookings for travel to or from France as well, according to Hogan.

The comments reflect how the attacks that killed 130 and a subsequent travel warning by the United States shook demand in the airline business, at least briefly. Air France KLM SA AIRF.PA said last month that customers’ travel cancellations had exceeded bookings.

Etihad’s passenger traffic inbound to Europe from India and Australasia has stayed strong, Hogan said.

Hogan was in New York this week to open a new airport lounge for Etihad at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where the company recently started flying the world’s largest aircraft type, the four-engine A380 from Airbus Group SE AIR.PA.

He said Etihad is not interested in a stretched upgrade to the A380, which Dubai-based Emirates airline [EMIRA.UL] has asked Airbus to build. Etihad has 10 A380s together in its fleet and on order.

“We think the new technology (with) two engines is operationally and economically more advantageous to us in the long term,” Hogan said, referring to Airbus’s twin-engine A350-1000 and the next generation 777 from the Boeing Co BA.N.

Last year, there were zero orders placed by commercial airlines for new jumbo 747 aircraft from Boeing or Airbus A380s, reflecting a fundamental shift in the airline industry toward smaller, twin-engine planes. Smaller planes cost less to fly than the stately, four-engine jumbos, which can carry as many as 525 passengers.

Separately, Hogan said Etihad had not considered whether it should increase its stakes in partners such as Air Berlin PLC AB1.DE, of which it owns 29 percent, if the European Union relaxes restrictions on foreign ownership.

“We’re happy with the investment structure as we see it,” he said.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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