Qatar Airways posted a QAR252 million ($US69.2m) net loss for the 12 months ending March 31, 2018, in what it described as the most challenging year in its 20-year-history.
This was down from a restated net profit of QAR2.79 billion for the previous financial year.
The airline, which has foreshadowed a loss, laid the blame for result squarely on the “illegal blockade’’ imposed by its Arab neighbors in June, 2017, that cut outbound seats by 19 percent.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar amid claims, denied by the Qataris, of links to extremism.
The blockade prompted Qatar to replace 18 mature routes with 14 new destinations during the fiscal year which came with launch costs and the need to establish a market presence.
Revenue and other operating income rose 7.2 percent to QAR42.23 billion and the airline retained a strong cash position of QAR13.3 billion.
But the turmoil saw passenger numbers fall from 32m to 29.16m as capacity, measured in available seat kilometres, rose 9.96 percent.
“This turbulent year has inevitably had an impact on our financial results, which reflect the negative effect the illegal blockade has had on our airline,’’ Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker said in the results announcement.
“However, I am pleased to say that thanks to our robust business planning, swift actions in the face of the crisis, our passenger-focused solutions and dedicated staff, the impact has been minimized – and has certainly not been as negative as our neighboring countries may have hoped for.”
The redeployment of capacity has now seen Qatar launch 24 new destinations since the start of the blockade as it moved to soften the loss of the 18 regional gateways.
Milestones during the year included delivery of the world’s first A350-1000 and 20 other aircraft to increase the fleet size to 213 planes.
The airline also expanded its investment portfolio to include an initial 9.994 percent stake in Cathay Pacific, which since increased to 9.99 percent, as well as 49 percent share in AQA Holding, the parent company of Meridiana Fly. Merianda was relaunched as Air Italy in February 2018.
The Qatar loss comes as ratings agency Fitch recently predicted Abu Dhabi-based rival Etihad will continue to lose money through to 2022.
It cited a high execution risk in Etihad’s turn-around plan, noting it had yet to establish a track record and medium-term results would depend on oil prices and the aviation sector’s competitive environment.