Etihad Airways improves performance in 2018 but still posts $1.28bn loss

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Etihad Airways has reported it improved its operating performance by 15 per cent in 2018 but still reported a loss of US$1.28 billion for the year – significantly better than the $1.52 billion in 2017.

The UAE carrier’s revenues reached $5.86 billion (2017: $6 billion) and it reduced unit costs by three per cent, despite a 31 per cent surge in fuel prices during the year.

Since commencing its five-year transformation programme in 2017, the airline has improved its core operating performance by 34 per cent despite challenging market conditions and effects of an increase in fuel prices.

Etihad carried 17.8 million passengers in 2018 (2017: 18.6 million), with a 76.4 per cent seat factor (2017: 78.5 per cent) and a decrease in passenger capacity (available seat kilometres (ASK)) of four per cent (from 115 billion to 110.3 billion).

The airline increased yields by four per cent, largely driven by capacity discipline, network and fleet optimisation and growing market share in premium and point-to-point markets. Passenger revenues remained steady at $5 billion.

Etihad Aviation Group chief executive officer, Tony Douglas said: “In 2018, we continued to forge ahead with our transformation journey by streamlining our cost base, improving our cash-flow and strengthening our balance sheet.

Our transformation is instilling a renewed sense of confidence in our customers, our partners and our people. As a major enabler of commerce and tourism to and from Abu Dhabi, we are intrinsically linked to the continued success of the emirate.”

During 2018, Etihad Airways took delivery of eight new aircraft including three Boeing 787-9s, four Boeing 787-10s and one Boeing 777-200 freighter. The airline’s fleet count at year end was 106.

Following negotiations with Airbus and Boeing, revisions to Etihad’s forward fleet commitments were announced on 14 February 2019. Under these agreements, the airline will take delivery of five Airbus A350-1000, 26 Airbus A321neo and six Boeing 777-9 aircraft in the coming years.

Etihad added Baku and Barcelona to its network in 2018 and the airline said both routes are outperforming forecasts. Frequencies were increased to several destinations including Toronto, Amman, Rome, and Male.

A number of unprofitable routes were discontinued in 2018 including Tehran, Jaipur, Entebbe, Dallas Fort Worth, Ho Chi Minh City, Dhaka, Dar es Salaam, Edinburgh and Perth.