Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, has reported a 25.4% growth in revenue passenger kilometres in the first quarter of 2010, compared to the same period last year. The improvement was matched by an increase in seat factors, from 73% to 75%, revealed the UAE’s national carrier. Passenger numbers also saw a rise of 11 percent and premium travel passengers also increased by around 5%. “These are encouraging figures. Despite operating in the worst air transport recession in history, Etihad has continued its growth trajectory. Our investment in our product and in our brand has helped us to attract higher numbers of passengers in both economy and premium cabins,” said Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan. The airline said its long haul operations had made important contributions to its performance in the first quarter, with 87% seat factors in economy on the new Chicago route, Asia-Pacific and Australian routes at seat factors of more than 80% in economy and European, American and Australian routes. “2009 was a very difficult year for the global air travel industry. The worst global recession in living memory, coupled with the H1N1 pandemic, led to a huge drop in demand for air travel. Despite facing these same challenges, Etihad managed to increase passenger numbers and saw a large growth in our RPK figures. This was helped by the continued expansion of our route network, by the growth of our fleet by 10 aircraft and by the aggressive sales and marketing of our services,” added Mr Hogan.