Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi International) aims to incrementally increase its fleet to around 150 aircraft within five years, up from around 80 now, CEO Antonoaldo Neves told Reuters at an event in the United Arab Emirates this week. While existing aircraft orders will supply much of that increase, Neves said Etihad may need to place an additional small order.

This would mean adding 15 to 20 narrowbody and widebody aircraft annually over the next half-decade. Talks with Airbus and Boeing are ongoing, Neves said, and with long delivery waits, options include taking over cancelled delivery slots. Neves is also open to acquiring aircraft from lessors. However, with an orderbook already numbering over 90 aircraft (albeit not all with delivery dates within the five-year timeframe), any future orders will be relatively small.

"I'm a big believer in fleet flexibility. I don't like to lock in big orders," he said. "I've learned the best thing we can do is have an orderbook that is sizeable but does not define the entire future."

He did not say whether he preferred Boeing or Airbus types. Etihad currently operates aircraft from both OEMs. However, he did say he had recently visited Boeing and was "impressed" by its B787 delivery initiatives. Currently, the carrier operates fourteen A320-200s, nine A321-200s, two A330-200s, five A350-1000s, ten A380-800s, five B777-200Fs, nine B777-300ERs, thirty-three B787-9s, and ten B787-10s, according to ch-aviation fleets data.

Outstanding orders will fill some of the airline's fleet needs over the next five years, Neves said. The aircraft due include twenty A321-200Ns, one A321-200NX, fifteen more A350-1000s, seven A350Fs, eight B777-8s, seventeen B777-9s, eight more B787-9s, and twenty more B787-10s, ch-aviation data shows.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ is pushing on with its bid to take Etihad public by the end of the year. ADQ hopes to raise as much as USD1 billion from the IPO and is keen to tap into strong demand from local and international investors for stakes in Gulf-based state-owned entities and a fast turnaround in Etihad's financial fortunes.

Bloomberg reported that ADQ had picked Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, and Morgan Stanley as joint stock runners for the public float. It was previously reported that it had selected Citigroup, HSBC Holdings, and First Abu Dhabi Bank as lead advisers, with Rothschild & Co also getting a jersey as an independent financial adviser.

If the float eventuates, Etihad Airways will become the first publicly traded Gulf-based carrier. Previous plans to float Emirates (EK, Dubai International) came to nought. However, late last year ch-aviation reported that a public float of flynas (XY, Riyadh) remains on the cards.