Abu Dhabi’s long-troubled Etihad reports USD870M loss in 2019

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Abu Dhabi’s long-troubled national carrier Etihad yesterday reported losses of USD870 million in 2019 after losing billions in recent years, calling the result “encouraging”.

Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of USD5.62 billion as its strategy of aggressively buying stakes in airlines from Europe to Australia to compete against Dubai-based Emirates and fellow rival Qatar Airways exposed the company to major losses.

The company has since started to claw its way out of financial trouble. In February, Etihad announced it would sell 38 aircraft to an investment firm and a leasing company in a deal valued at USD1 billion. Etihad said that revenue would be reflected in its 2020 results.

“There’s still some way to go but progress made in 2019, and cumulatively since 2017, has instilled in us a renewed vigour and determination to push ahead and implement the changes needed to continue this positive trajectory,” Etihad CEO Tony Douglas said in a statement.

By comparison, Etihad lost USD1.28 billion in 2018. Etihad reported losses of USD1.52 billion for 2017 and USD1.95 billion in 2016.

File photo shows an Emirati man taking a selfie in front of a new Etihad Airways A380 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on December 18, 2014. PHOTO: AP

Etihad reported revenues of USD5.6 billion, compared to USD5.9 billion in 2018. It carried 17.5 million passengers last year, down from 17.8 million in 2018. It attributed the lower revenues to cutting back on routes as part of its restructuring plans.

Etihad also has restructured planned aircraft purchases from Airbus and Boeing. It said its fleet now has 101 aircraft in it, down from 106 the year before.

Abu Dhabi’s rulers launched Etihad in 2003, competing with the established Dubai government-owned carrier Emirates that flies out of Dubai International Airport only 115 kilometres away. In 2018, Etihad began loaning pilots to Emirates under a new programme.

Both Emirates and Etihad have seen business hurt by United States (US) President Donald Trump’s travel bans affecting Muslim-majority nations. That’s even with Abu Dhabi International Airport having a US Customs and Border Protection preclearance facility, allowing passengers arriving in America to immediately leave. It’s the only such facility in the Mideast.

The two airlines compete in the long-haul carrier market, using their nation’s location between East and West to their advantage.

Both airlines continued to fly to Beijing amid the ongoing outbreak of the new coronavirus, even as other Western airlines have cut flights. That’s likely due to the Emirati government’s desire to maintain close relations with China out of hopes Chinese investment can boost its flagging real-estate market and tourism.