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"A tidal wave of demand waiting to be unleashed" Etihad plans path to recovery

Abu Dhabi based carrier Etihad Airways has announced its operating and financial results for the first half of 2021, which show a progressive recovery across its business despite a slower than expected return to global air travel.

Abu Dhabi based carrier Etihad Airways has announced its operating and financial results for the first half of 2021, which show a progressive recovery across its business despite a slower than expected return to global air travel.

The airline carried one million passengers in the first half of 2021, with an average seat load factor of 24.9 per cent.

Etihad said this represents an average 10 per cent month-on-month growth in passenger volumes since Etihad restarted passenger operations in July 2020.

Throughout the first half of 2021, Etihad retained a singular focus on cost control, decreasing operating costs by 27 per cent year-on-year from US$1.9 billion to US$1.4 billion, supported by reduced capacity and volume-related expenses.

Fixed overhead costs saw a significant improvement, reducing by 22 per cent to US$0.3 billion, while finance costs were reduced by 22 per cent owing to an ongoing balance sheet deleveraging. As a result, the airline managed to rebuild its liquidity position to pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, Etihad recorded a core operating loss of US$400 million for the first half of 2021 (half the loss of US$800 million in 2020), with EBITDA turning to a positive US$100 million from a negative US$100 million in the same period of 2020.

Etihad on the up again for 2021/22

Since the beginning of 2021, Etihad has launched or restarted operations to 10 destinations, including the historic launch of scheduled services to Tel Aviv in April 2021.

Network capacity in the first half of 2021 came in at 16.4 billion ASKs and has grown steadily since the start of the year, with the airline operating almost 3,500 flights a month to 67 passenger and cargo destinations by the end of June 2021.

As a result of new variants of the coronavirus affecting key travel markets in the Indian Sub-Continent and Europe, passenger revenue came in at US$300 million, down by 68 per cent year-on-year from US$1.0 billion.

However, the dip in passenger revenue was offset by strong performance in cargo operations, with a 44% year-on-year increase in freight carried in the first half of 2021 and a 56 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue (US$800 million).

Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer for Etihad, said: “Every day, Etihad Airways is making up for lost ground. Despite the curveball of the Delta variant disrupting the global recovery in air travel, we have continued to ramp up operations and are today in a much better place than this time in 2020.

As soon as destinations are added to the Abu Dhabi green list or UAE travel corridors, we are seeing a three to six-fold jump in bookings in some cases, showing there is a tidal wave of demand waiting to be unleashed. We are ready to welcome more guests on board to experience why Etihad is second to none when it comes to ensuring passenger wellbeing.”

Adam Boukadida, Chief Financial Officer for Etihad, said: “While market demand has been slower to recover than anticipated, our record cargo performance has continued to buoy the business. At the same time, we have continued to strengthen underlying fundamentals to place Etihad in a better position to maximise the value of passenger revenue as our volumes return.