Etihad Airways stunned the industry and financial analysts this week when the company reported its financial and operating results for the first half of 2022, posting a record-breaking core operating profit of US$ 296 million.
The success is mainly attributed to Etihad’s radical transformation of both its business strategy, cost reduction, and fleet restructuring programs following the pandemic.
Even before Covid, Etihad was deep in the red and has embarked on a rather wasteful, if not to say catastrophic, investment strategy creating the Etihad Partners Network, where the airline burned Billions on loss making second grade carriers in order to establish their own “mini alliance” rather than trying to join one of the big players.
After a couple of billion dollars literally incinerated following the liquidation of most carriers, Etihad invested in, the powers at be pulled the plus and mandated a new business plan while simultaneously Covid entered the picture, making a bad situation even worse.
Etihad has used the last two years properly to turn the company around and just reported a big operating profit for the first half of 2022.
Etihad Airways today announced its financial and operating results for the first half of 2022, posting a record-breaking core operating profit of US$ 296 million (H1 2021: US$ 392 million loss). This result was achieved despite fuel costs increasing by almost 60% in comparison to the same period last year.
Etihad carried 4.02 million passengers in H1 2022, over 3 million more than last year (H1 2021: 980,000), with an average seat load factor of 75%. Passenger loads increased consistently over the first six months, rising by 21.9 percentage points as travel demand recovered. The airline saw a strong boost in passenger volumes in February as Abu Dhabi further relaxed pandemic-related restrictions.
Network capacity came in at 24 billion ASKs for H1 2022, growing by 46% compared to last year (H1 2021: 16.4 billion), as the airline connected Abu Dhabi to 71 passenger and cargo destinations across 45 countries. The first half of the year saw Etihad launch five summer services, including new seasonal routes to Heraklion on the island of Crete and the French city of Nice.
Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer, said: “Thanks to our transformation programme, Etihad is emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever, with a world-class fleet, an unmatched customer proposition and sustainability woven into every fibre of our business.
Top management always tries to make their efforts look successful in order to gain brownie points with the shareholders but in this case it’s rather obvious that whatever they did worked out.
Aside from dropping these awful investments into bad airlines, Etihad has also embarked on an aggressive cost-cutting and fleet harmonization program which will see operating expenditures continue to drop.
Financial and loyalty related highlights
Etihad’s passenger revenues tripled in the first six months of the year, climbing to US$ 1.25 billion (H1 2021: US$ 320 million) as more business and leisure travellers returned to the air. This was supported by more countries across Etihad’s network relaxing their Covid-related travel restrictions.
Cargo operations continued to deliver exceptional results with revenues of US$ 802 million in the first half of 2022, representing an increase of 6% on the same period last year. Revenues remained strong despite the increase in passenger volumes limiting belly-hold capacity, leading to a 19% reduction in freight carried (295,020 tonnes).
As a result of a constant focus on cost containment, fixed overhead and finance costs decreased in H1 2022, falling by 9% (or US$ 29 million) and 13% (or US$ 22 million) respectively.
Etihad Guest, the airline’s award-winning loyalty programme, delivered a record of new member acquisitions in June 2022, increasing to 7.95 million members globally. Flight redemptions increased 15% in H1 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with over 737,000 flights taken, and member engagement levels translated into record card spends across the programme’s portfolio of UAE banks, supported by a new partnership with Emirates NBD.
Tripling the overall passenger revenue compared to 2021 levels is a big number but let’s remember that in H1/2021 we were just coming out of the pandemic.
I’d be interested in the total number of new members Etihad was able to sign up for Etihad Guest, let alone how many of these will be repeat customers.
These are the figures:
|H1 2022||H1 2021|
|Passenger revenue (US$ billion)||1.25||0.32|
|Cargo revenue (US$ billion)||0.80||0.76|
|Operating revenue (US$ billion)||2.29||1.23|
|EBITDA (US$ billion)||0.69||0.06|
|Core operating result (US$ billion)||0.30||(0.39)|
|Total passengers (million)||4.02||0.98|
|Available seat kilometres (billion)||24.00||16.43|
|Seat load factor (%)||74.98%||24.89%|
|Number of operating aircraft||71||64|
|Cargo tonnage (leg tonnes ‘000)||295.02||365.48|
Are these numbers trustworthy?
The ME3 carriers have been getting a lot of flak, mostly from other airlines in Europe and North America, accusing them of being propped up by their respective governments.
I’d say these times are over, and they now have to publish proper financial reports that are easy to reconcile. Of course, the money previously invested into all these partner network carriers didn’t come from Etihad’s kitchen drawer but from the rulers of Abu Dhabi, hence why they eventually lost patience and probably got a tad nervous as well. Even the richest people in the world don’t like to shovel money into a furnace.
To say that the ME3 airline probably still profit from preferential rates at airports and fuel suppliers might be a fair assumption as these are likewise controlled by the local rulers, unlike having to deal with private companies that run everything overseas.
Either way, after what happened to airlines during the pandemic on a global scale, with most of them having received a lot of government assistance since 2020, these arguments and accusations should be moot once and for all.
Overall the direction Etihad is heading looks promising, but there is a long way to go before passengers will embrace Etihad again, and most of this is related to the comfort of the Abu Dhabi airport. The transit experience there is really grotesque, and I wonder how much longer they want to take before finally opening up that shiny new terminal.
During my last transit experience in AUH, flying Business Class from Seoul to Frankfurt was anything but comfortable, and I decided not to fly Etihad anymore until this problem is solved. The structures Etihad uses at the aging Abu Dhabi Airport are no longer adequate.
Etihad Airways has reported a record profit for the first half of 2022 and says that their restructuring effort is now bearing fruits in form of higher efficiency and financial health.
Hopefully, Etihad will be able to improve the ground product and inflight experience by eventually phasing out the bad old terminals and aircraft.