Coronavirus panemic

Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad has said it posted an operating loss of US$1.7 billion in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has almost shut down international aviation.

Iran Press/Middle East: Etihad reported revenues of US$2.7 billion in 2020 compared to US$5.6 billion the year before. The airline has long struggled with financial losses long before the pandemic wiped out the global aviation industry.

Since 2016, Etihad has lost a total of US$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.

As a consequence of the pandemic and ensuing flight and travel restrictions, total passenger capacity was reduced by 64 percent in 2020 to 37.5 billion Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs), down from 104 billion in 2019, with the seat load factor declining to 52.9 percent, 25.8 percentage points lower compared to 2019.

The airline’s cargo operation saw a 66 percent increase in revenue to US$1.2 billion in 2020, driven by a huge demand for medical supplies such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and pharmaceuticals, paired with limited global airfreight capacity.

Cargo yield saw an improvement of 77 percent, the company said. Operating costs decreased by 39 percent year-on-year, from US$5.4 billion in 2019 to US$3.3 billion in 2020, due to a combination of reduced capacity and volume-related expenses, as well as a focus on cost containment initiatives.

Tony Douglas, the group's CEO, said, “COVID shook the very foundation of the aviation industry, but thanks to our dedicated people and the support of our shareholder, Etihad stood firm and is ready to play a key role as the world returns to flying."

"While nobody could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, our focus on optimizing core business fundamentals over the past three years put Etihad in good stead to respond decisively to the global crisis. We have taken bold action to protect our people and our guests, develop an industry-leading health and hygiene program and restructure our business to better position us for recovery. As the world’s first airline to vaccinate all our operating pilots and cabin crew against Covid, we are ready to welcome back travelers to experience best-in-class travel with Etihad Airways,” he added.