Abu Dhabi's Etihad wants answers on Airbus A380 cracks

ABU DHABI Tue Apr 3, 2012 7:00am EDT

James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways gestures during a news conference in Berlin, December 19, 2011. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways gestures during a news conference in Berlin, December 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer

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ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi's flagship carrier which is due to get its first Airbus EAD.PA A380 superjumbo in 2014, said it wants more clarity from the plane maker about wing cracks on the aircraft.

European air safety regulators ordered checks in February for Airbus A380 wing cracks for the entire superjumbo fleet after safety engineers found cracks in almost all the planes inspected.

"Obviously we are very concerned about this defect. They have given us assurances that they've been rectified ... we need them to be qualified," Etihad chief executive James Hogan told reporters at the firm's Abu Dhabi headquarters.

Larger rival Emirates EMIRA.UL, the world's largest operator of the A380, said in March it planned to seek compensation from Airbus after complaining of widespread disruption and an expected loss of revenue.

Etihad has an order of 10 Airbus A380s pending, with the first due for delivery at the end of 2014.

Unlisted Etihad has been on an acquisition spree recently and reported higher first-quarter revenues on Tuesday on increased passenger numbers and network expansion.

It acquired 30 percent of Germany's Air Berlin (AB1.DE) last year and took a 40-percent stake in Air Seychelles in February.

But Hogan said the carrier was not interested in buying a stake in loss-making Air France (AIRF.PA) and there were no current discussions with Irish airline Aer Lingus (AERL.I).

"We continue to look at opportunities. That's reflected in what we did with Air Berlin and Air Seychelles," said Hogan who told an Irish newspaper in February that Etihad was interested in talks with the Irish government over its 25-percent stake in Aer Lingus.

When asked if active talks were going on over Aer Lingus, he said: "There are no talks."

Etihad reported a 28-percent rise in quarterly revenues to $989 million, up from $770 million in the year-ago period.

Hogan said the airline expected to generate revenues of $5 billion in 2012 and to be profitable over the year. The carrier posted its first annual profit in 2011 since its creation nine years ago, notching up a small $14 million profit.

"There are challenges in our region. But I'm bullish and hope to achieve profits this year," Hogan said.

Average seat factor, a measure of capacity utilization, was 76.5 percent for the first quarter and the airline carried 2.36 million passengers during the period.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Writing by Dinesh Nair, Editing by Amran Abocar and Mark Potter)

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