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Etihad Airways reports $1.7 billion 2020 loss

Abu Dhabi’s national carrier has reported core operating losses of US$1.7 billion ($2.2 billion) for 2020, reflecting the severe toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the long-troubled airline that has lost billions in recent years.

Etihad on Thursday reported revenues of US$2.7 billion ($2.5 billion) in 2020 compared to US$5.6 billion ($7.2 billion) the year before, a precipitous decline it attributed to “drastically fewer people travelling” as the surging pandemic crippled air travel.

But the airline, one of the Middle East’s top carriers, struggled with financial losses long before the pandemic wiped out the global aviation industry.
An Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates.
An Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates. (AP)

Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of $5.62 billion as it has aggressively bought up stakes in airlines from Europe to Asia to compete against the region’s other leading airlines, Dubai-based Emirates and Qatar Airways.

With cost-cutting measures, the company was just starting to recover from the economic pain early last year.

It announced the sale of 38 aircraft to an investment firm in an attempt to bolster profits, in a deal valued at US$1 billion ($1.3 billion).

Passenger traffic plummeted to just 4.2 million travellers from 17.5 million the year before, the airline said.

Total passenger capacity on planes dropped 64 per cent. The carrier lost US$758 million ($972.8 million) over the first half of 2020 alone.

The losses rippled across the company, forcing the airline to cut 33 per cent of its workforce and slash salaries by 25–50 per cent.

By comparison, Etihad lost US$870 million ($1.12 billion) in 2019. The airline reported losses of US$1.28 billion ($1.64 billion) in 2018 and US$1.52 billion ($1.95 billion) in 2017.

Still, Etihad CEO Tony Douglas struck an optimistic tone in the earnings announcement.

“While nobody could have predicted how 2020 would unfold,” he said, “Etihad stood firm and is ready to play a key role as the world returns to flying.”

Abu Dhabi’s rulers launched Etihad in 2003, rivalling the established Dubai government-owned carrier Emirates, which boasts a larger fleet and far-flung network.

Emirates flies out of Dubai International Airport only 115 kilometres away from the capital of Abu Dhabi.

The two airlines compete in the long-haul carrier market, using their nation’s location as a key east-west transit point to their advantage.

Source: 9News | World News

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