Etihad Airways has reported its most successful first half year, with revenues up 28 per cent to US$ 1,720 million (H1 2010: US$ 1,342 million), driven by solid performances in both passenger and cargo activities.
A 2 per cent reduction in costs per available seat kilometre, despite large increases in oil prices, also helped deliver a positive EBITDAR (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and rentals) in the six months from January 1 for the first time.
The results mark continued progress towards the airline’s goal of breaking even this year and moving into sustainable profitability in 2012.
James Hogan, Etihad Airways chief executive officer, said the results were achieved despite a still fragile economy and, at times, difficult operating conditions.
They were released as Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, prepares to significantly expand its global network.
Last week flights to two new Chinese cities, Chengdu and Shanghai were announced and services to Male and the Seychelles start on November 1.
“These are exciting new destinations for us. China is a huge market and Chengdu is the economic centre and transportation and communications hub of the country’s booming southwest region.
“Shanghai is the most populous city in mainland China (23 million) and when combined with our daily flights to the capital Beijing enables us to offer local passengers convenient flight options to the UAE, Middle East, Europe and North America.
“We are determined to build a schedule which increases customer choice and attracts local point-to-point traffic in line with the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan,” Mr Hogan said.
“Also, we will continue to connect our high growth and emerging markets to Abu Dhabi and the world by linking them through the UAE capital while at the same time expanding our high value premium markets and traffic flows.”
The delivery of five new wide-body passenger aircraft – three A330-300s and two B777-300ERs during the 2011 Summer allowed frequencies to be increased to several major markets.
Manchester becomes a double -daily destination from August 1. Daily services were also introduced to Geneva, Milan and Beijing, while two extra flights to Brussels enabled the Belgian capital to be serviced eight times a week.
Mr Hogan said passenger revenues rose 21 per cent on the back of a 14 per cent growth in passenger numbers to 3.8 million and 5 per cent growth in passenger yield.
Despite political unrest in the Middle East and the Japanese earthquake, seat factor increased to 72.9 per cent (H1 2010: 72.5 per cent).
Etihad’s cargo operations enjoyed strong growth with revenues up by 32 per cent in the first half of the year, bolstered by improvement in tonnage and yields.
“This is a wonderful achievement and Etihad Crystal Cargo plays a hugely important part in the on-going success of the airline as it now contributes 20 per cent of our direct operating revenue,” Mr Hogan said.
These results reflect higher utilisation of the freighter fleet, increased business segmentation and an expansion of trucking operations in the GCC.
They were driven by a strong commercial awareness and a focus on optimising network cargo flows.
Cargo revenue surged out of the United Kingdom, the UAE, Germany, China and India.
Just last week Etihad took delivery of its first Boeing 777 Freighter, joining its cargo fleet of two Airbus A330-200F, two Airbus A300-600F aircraft and two McDonnell Douglas MD11s.
Etihad Crystal Cargo now operates to 26 cargo freighter destinations internationally and to 83 destinations across the globe.
So far this year new freighter services have also been launched to Johannesburg, Amsterdam and Kabul while the frequency of cargo services to Milan, Frankfurt-Hahn, Shanghai, Nairobi and Erbil has also been expanded because of growing demand.
Other highlights for the first half of the year included
- Being named the airline with the Best First Class in the world for the second year running in Skytrax’s annual World Airline Awards.
- Acknowledged as the Middle East’s Leading Airline in the World Travel Awards, as voted by 213,000 travel industry professionals.
- The introduction of 100 qualified international chefs dedicated to food service excellence in Diamond First class cabins. This five-star restaurant style of service in the sky will begin on selected routes from October and be fully available on all flights offering First class by the end of the year.
- Agreements signed with three new code-share partners; Air Astana, Air New Zealand and Czech Airlines, which became Etihad’s 31st airline partner.
- The success of Etihad’s comprehensive partnership with Virgin Blue. The launch of V Australia’s Sydney-Abu Dhabi services in February enabled the airlines to offer a total of 24 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia
- The graduation of Etihad’s first female Emirati co-pilot Salma Al Baloushi from the airline’s cadet program
- The dramatic expansion of Etihad’s Emiratisation scheme which will see 864 UAE nationals employed by the end of the year, representing 18 per cent of Etihad’s total workforce (up from 13 per cent in 2010.)