Etihad optimistic despite slower global travel growth

August 11, 2021
An Etihad flight attendant receives her vaccination. Photo: Etihad.

Gulf carrier Etihad says it is on the path to recovery despite a slower than expected return to global air travel that saw it fill just a quarter of its seats in the first half of 2021.

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier on Tuesday announced a $US400 million first-half operating loss but an improvement in earnings before interest, tax and amortization from -$100m last year to $100 million in the latest half.

Management said the one million passengers carried in the first half represented a 10 percent month-on-month growth in passenger volumes since the restart of operations in July 2020.

READ: US mulls 2050 deadline for 100percent sustainable aviation fuels.

Network capacity of 16.4 billion available seat kilometres was down from the 23.7 billion in the first half of 2020 as the seat factor dropped from 71 percent to 24.9 percent.

But the airline said capacity had grown steadily since the start of the year with the operation of almost 3500 flights a month to 67 cargo and passenger destinations by the end of June.

This included restarting operation to 10 destinations and the launch of scheduled services to Tel Aviv in April.

Passenger revenue fell from $US1 billion a year ago to $US300 million as the airline was affected by new coronavirus variants but this was offset by a 56 percent year-on-year rise in cargo revenue to $US800 million.

Also helping: a 27 percent fall in operating costs and reductions in fixed and financing expenses of 22 percent due to “a singular focus on cost control”.

“Every day, Etihad Airways is making up for lost ground. Despite the curveball of the Delta variant disrupting the global recovery in air travel, we have continued to ramp up operations and are today in a much better place than this time in 2020,’’ Group chief executive Tony Douglas said.

“As soon as destinations are added to the Abu Dhabi green list or UAE travel corridors, we are seeing a three to six-fold jump in bookings in some cases, showing there is a tidal wave of demand waiting to be unleashed.

“We are ready to welcome more guests on board to experience why Etihad is second to none when it comes to ensuring passenger wellbeing.”