Etihad Airways’ profits treble to $42m

Hogan and James Rigney, chief financial officer for Etihad Airways

UAE national carrier, Etihad Airways reported net profits of $42 million in 2012, up 200 per cent on 2011 ($14 million) in a year which saw strong improvements in revenues, passengers numbers and cost control. The airline made its first profit in 2011.

While revenues increased by 17 per cent to $4.8 billion ($4.1 billion), passenger numbers were up 23 per cent to 10.3 million (8.4 million). These numbers were boosted significantly by Etihad Airways’ equity partnerships and codeshares, which delivered more than $600 million in total revenue.

James Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Etihad Airways, said: “This has been a game-changing year for Etihad Airways.

“We have delivered improved net profit, the second consecutive year we have been in the black, a remarkable achievement given the youth, ambitious growth and on-going investment made by this airline in a challenging global economic environment.

“We have taken great strides in building the industry’s first ‘equity alliance’, with our investments in airberlin, Air Seychelles, Virgin Australia and Aer Lingus, which are contributing significant value to our business.

“And we have met our mandate of contributing to the economic development of Abu Dhabi, growing its aviation sector and building trade and tourism connections across the globe.”

Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose 24 per cent to $170 million ($137 million), while EBITDAR (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation and rentals) rose to $753 million ($648 million), a margin of 16 per cent on total revenue.

During the year, growth in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) outpaced growth in available seat kilometres (ASKs) for the fourth year running.  RPKs were up 23 per cent to 48 billion (39 billion), on ASKs up 20 per cent to 61 billion (51 billion), resulting in an impressive lift in seat factor of 2.4 points to 78.2 per cent (75.8 per cent).

Equity and codeshare partners delivered more than 1.2 million passengers onto the Etihad Airways network. airberlin, in which Etihad Airways holds a 29.21 per cent stake, made a very strong contribution, with more than 300,000 passengers shared between their networks, delivering more than $130 million in total to the two airlines. The airline also took a 40 per cent stake in Air Seychelles in January 2012 and was given a five-year management contract to run the airline.

Continuing its development of codeshare relationships, Etihad also strengthened its relationship with Air France-KLM, with the announcement that the UAE flag carrier will wet-lease an Air France Airbus A340-300 for use on the Paris-Abu Dhabi route from May 15 to November 30.

Despite the increase in global oil prices during 2012, Etihad Airways minimised the impact through its rigorous fuel hedging policy. The airline hedged 80 per cent of fuel costs during the year, the same level as in 2011.

2012 saw the airline fly to six new destinations including Tripoli, Shanghai, Nairobi, Lagos, Ahmedabad and Basra while it increased frequency and capacity of services to Dusseldorf, Bangkok, Kuwait, Dammam, Istanbul, Khartourm and Cairo. The airline has also announced new flights to Washington, Amsterdam, Sao Paolo and Ho Chi Minh City for 2013.

Last month, the airline made its big switch to new, state-of-the-art, passenger sales, website, and check-in systems next week, a significant milestone in its $1 billion, ten-year, deal with Sabre Airline Solutions. The Big Switch will integrate Etihad Airways’ current PSS into one platform that will utilise cutting-edge software across its reservations, inventory, eCommerce, distribution and departure control activities.

On-board, the airline launched its new “Etihad Wi-Fly” inflight high-speed, broadband internet and mobile phone connectivity service, powered by the Panasonic Avionics Global Communications Suite, on an A330-200 flight to Brussels in December. This is the first deployment of the technology that will flow from a $1 billion 10-year contract with Panasonic.

“The customer is at the heart of everything we do. In 2012, it was our commitment to consistently deliver best-in-class service and product, on the ground and in the air, which resulted in such strong passenger growth and financial performance,” Hogan said.

Etihad Airways continues to invest in its award-winning product across the network. In 2012, the airline unveiled plans for new lounges in Paris (opened in December 2012), Washington, Sydney and Melbourne. 

Reflecting strong customer loyalty, the airline’s frequent flyer program, Etihad Guest, passed the 1.8 million member mark during the year. The program was strengthened with the introduction of the PointsPay solution, allowing Etihad Guest members to redeem points for cash to purchase products in 30 million outlets around the world.

Planned fleet upgrades for 2013 include 14 aircraft, with 11 passenger aircraft deliveries and three freighter deliveries. The orders are for nine wide bodied aircraft (6 x Boeing 777-300ER passenger, 2 x Boeing 777 freighter and 1 x Airbus 330 Freighter) and five narrow body aircraft (4 x Airbus 320 and 1 x Airbus 321).

“I am excited about what the future holds and look forward to working with all our partners to maximise the return for our shareholder, enable the continued growth and evolution of Abu Dhabi, and create a remarkable experience for our passengers,” added Hogan.