Tony Douglas, chief executive officer of Etihad Airways
Tony Douglas, CEO of Etihad Airways Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Etihad Airways CEO Tony Douglas said the airline was profitable in the first quarter of 2022 due to higher load factors.

“Our first quarter results for this year will be the first time Etihad has been profitable in its 18-year history,” Douglas said during a CAPA (Center for Aviation) summit. “Our load factors for March are greater than they were in March 2019.”

“The yield in the ticket is still up there when the load factor has gone back,” Douglas added.

Etihad, which was in the midst of a turnaround before the pandemic began, recorded a sharp drop in losses in 2021 at $476 million compared to a loss of $1.70 billion in the year-ago period.

Premium demand

Douglas said there has been higher demand for Etihad’s premium offerings.

“Over the course of the last nine months, premium cabin load factors have actually been higher as a percentage than they were pre-pandemic,” Douglas said. “And it's not people who are traveling on the credit card of the corporate per se, it's people who are now seeing the value in space, and the quality of the product from a wellness standpoint.”

The Etihad chief also noted that the ‘latent demand’ for travel was quite high as COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted worldwide.

“Many of the global economists will offer analyses to show that credit card debt in particular has been paid down significantly - over the last two years, there's a lot more cash in the system,” Douglas said. “The latent demand for travel is probably greater now than it's been in any time that I can remember.”

2023 recovery

Airline heads at the CAPA event also predicted that industry recovery could happen by 2023.

Emirates President Tim Clark said due to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the industry will get back to 2019 levels of passenger traffic only by 2023 summer. “Before the conflict started in Europe, I would have said (between) the back end of this year and the middle of next year.”

Douglas anticipates the recovery to happen by mid-2023.