Stock Etihad
The additional capacity has led to a 34% increase in Etihad’s total weekly flights for the upcoming peak summer period. Image Credit: Etihad Airways

Abu Dhabi: UAE’s flag carrier Etihad Airways posted its Q1 2024 results on Thursday, recording a profit after tax of Dh526 million, marking a significant improvement over the Q1 2023 profit of Dh 59 million. This airline, owned by Abu Dhabi Development Holding Company (ADQ), attributed its robust profits—unusual for airlines in the first quarter—to strong passenger demand and expanded network capacity.

Total revenue also saw a notable rise, increasing by Dh 987 million, from Dh4.7 billion in Q1 2023 to Dh 5.7 billion in Q1 2024.

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The airline carried 4.2 million passengers over the quarter, up 41 per cent year-on-year. The average passenger load factor stands at 86 per cent for Q1 2024 and remains unchanged compared to the first quarter of last year.

The airline said in a statement that “Revenue from cargo and other sources remained broadly stable over the same period.”

Antonoaldo Neves, CEO of Etihad Airways, said, “Our first quarter earnings are equivalent to our total net income for the entire financial year 2023.”

“This significant profit increase was achieved even with the holy month of Ramadan starting in early March this year, compared to late March last year, demonstrating the adaptability of our business,” said Neves.

We have maintained our resilience and our focus on customer service and growth while continuing to improve our commitment to efficiency.

- Antonoaldo Neves

“Our plans are set to expand our network and enhance our offerings while connecting an ever-greater number of people to and via Abu Dhabi,” he said.

He told Gulf News, “If you take the top 30 airlines in the world, over 40 per cent passenger growth, Q1 over Q1, is a lot. I won’t be surprised if it is a record. Our people (employees) are doing a phenomenal job.” Neves said the airline is hiring 200 pilots per year. Over the past three years, we hired 2,000 flight attendants. So, people can make a difference,” he added.

STOCK Etihad cabin crew
The airline hired 2,000 cabin crew over the past three years. Image Credit: Etihad

Operational costs

The airline stated that its ongoing efforts to enhance operational efficiency have decreased unit costs compared to last year’s quarter. The cost of available seat kilometres (CASK) and CASK ex-fuel decreased by 9 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

Etihad grew its operating fleet from 75 to 89 aircraft (including five freighters) over the same quarter last year, incorporating three new Boeing 787s in February 2024.

The airline CEO told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market that he would “do whatever it takes” to achieve its goal of doubling its fleet to 150 planes by 2030, especially amid the ongoing aircraft supply chain crisis causing delays in deliveries.

“We are buying new planes, we lease planes, we get used planes, we do everything. We are very flexible in our approach. We are very agile in trying to address these problems,” Neves said.

Etihad hinted at its readiness for a potential listing in March this year, aligning with its ambitious growth plans until 2030. However, Neves said that ADQ would make any determination regarding this prospect.

New routes

During this period, the airline also optimised its network by enhancing routes and increasing frequencies to several destinations. The airline also launched new flights to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode in India and Boston in the United States. Etihad has announced additional routes to Antalya and Jaipur.

Neves said the airline had identified focal expansion points: the Middle East, Southeast Asia, India and the subcontinent, Europe, and the East Coast of the US.

“The additional capacity has led to a 34 per cent increase in Etihad’s total weekly flights for the upcoming peak summer period, growing from 642 last year to 858 in 2024,” the airline said.

Etihad Airways, which operates out of its home base at the Zayed International Airport Terminal A, said it plays a crucial role in supporting Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector, driving a 43 per cent increase in inbound point-to-point traffic compared to the first quarter of 2023.

Key Q1 2024 highlights a glance:
Total revenue has increased primarily due to a significant boost in passenger revenue, which rose by Dh 966 million, a 25 per cent increase from the previous year

Cargo revenue dipped from Dh895 million in Q1 2023 to Dh888 million in Q1 2024

Passenger numbers shot up to 4.2 million in Q1 2024 from 3 million in Q1 2023

The airline operates to 75 destinations as of March 2024