The airline carried 4.02 million passengers in the first half of 2022. Image Credit: Supplied

Etihad Airways has posted a record-breaking core operating profit of $296 million in the first half of 2022, compared to a $392 million loss in the year-ago period, the Abu Dhabi-based airline said on Thursday.

This result was achieved despite fuel costs increasing by almost 60 per cent in comparison to the same period last year as the airline saw a significant jump in both passenger and cargo revenues.

The airline carried 4.02 million passengers in the first half of 2022, over three million more than the same period last year, when the number stood at 980,000, with an average seat load factor of 75 per cent.

Passenger revenues tripled in the first six months of the year, climbing to $1.25 billion as against $320 million in the year-ago period, 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 saw a 6 per cent revenue growth at $802 million, despite the increase in passenger volumes limiting belly-hold capacity, leading to a 19 per cent reduction in freight carried (295,020 tonnes).

"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,” said Group CEO Tony Douglas.

“As air travel came roaring back in 2022, Etihad was there to reconnect our customers with their loved ones and take them on their long-awaited vacations, carrying over 4 million passengers to and from our beautiful home of Abu Dhabi.”

Passenger loads saw a consistent increase 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 (available seat kilometres, a measure of passenger carrying capacity) for H1 2022, growing by 46 per cent compared to last year (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.

Sustainability remained a key area for the airline as fuel efficient A350-1000s entered into service and “continued our industry-leading decarbonisation efforts, leading to Etihad being recently named Environmental Airline of the Year”, Douglas said.

Lowering costs

Fixed overhead and finance costs decreased in H1 2022, falling by 9 per cent to $29 million) and 13 per cent to $22 million, respectively.

"In the first half, we managed to further reduce our fixed overhead and finance costs by $50million compared to H1 2021, reduce the level of debt on our balance sheet, and improve our EBITDA by more than $600 million,” said Chief Financial Officer Adam Boukadida.

“While ramping up our operations and recording a four-fold increase in passenger volumes, we kept a tight hold on our cost base. As a result, our operating costs only rose by 26 per cent despite a 46 per cent increase in deployed capacity.”