STOCK Etihad Airways
The airline launched 15 new destinations and added 14 aircraft including four A380s in 2023. Image Credit: Etihad Airways

Abu Dhabi: UAE’s flag carrier Etihad Airways recorded operating profit of Dh1.4 billion ($394 million) in 2023, driven by Dh4 billion ($1.1 billion) year-on-year growth in passenger revenue and a seven per cent drop in non-fuel costs, the airline’s chief executive Antonoaldo Neves announced on Wednesday.

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Etihad Airways posted a net profit of Dh525 million ($143 million), with total revenue rising 11 per cent to Dh20.3 billion ($5.5 billion) from the previous year. The airline also said it saw a 40 per cent year-on-year increase in its passenger numbers, from 10 million to 14 million, and passenger revenue increased by Dh4 billion ($1.1 billion) to Dh16.7 billion ($4.5 billion).

The airline experienced an overall load factor of 86 per cent, compared to 82 per cent in 2022. Neves said the airline’s unit for revenue, or price per kilometer, is lower than that of its major competitors Emirates and Qatar Airways. “Our load factors are 86 per cent. We are offering Rome to Abu Dhabi roundtrip tickets for Dh1,110 (for example),” he said. The airline also hired 2,300 new employees last year, primarily pilots and cabin crew. 

STOCK Etihad cabin crew
Etihad experienced remarkable growth in passenger numbers, with a total of 14 million passengers, marking a substantial increase of about 40 per cent. Image Credit: Etihad Airways

Soaring revenues

“Total revenue reached Dh20.3 billion ($ 5.5 billion) in the year ended December 31, 2023, compared to Dh18.3 billion ($5.0 billion) in 2022,” stated the airline.

Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, Chairman of Etihad Aviation Group, thanked airline customers and the Etihad family for delivering reliable, best-in-class service, the hallmark of the airline’s operations. “The team has continued to make our airline stronger and more efficient while delivering extraordinary customer experiences,” said Al Shorafa.

“I am confident we will continue to build on this solid foundation as we grow our network, enhance our offering and connect even more people with Abu Dhabi as we support and promote the Emirate’s tourism ambitions, delivering our vision to be the airline that everyone wants to fly.”

- Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi

Future growth

Neves said, “Following our strong performance in 2023, in which we achieved Dh1.4 billion operating result and a net profit of Dh525 million, our task at hand is to strengthen our business further as we continue our growth strategy and pursue further margin expansion opportunities.”

Will Etihad list on the stock markets?
The airline also addressed a Bloomberg report discussing potential talks for its stock market listing, saying an IPO is not an immediate focus for Etihad Airways.
The Bloomberg report suggested that Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company (ADQ), the airline’s owners, are exploring the possibility of taking the airline public. Neves told media airlines are a very capital- intensive business and stand to benefit from listing on the capital markets. He said, “Airlines listing on stock markets is not uncommon. I’m very happy to see speculation in the media about something like that because five years ago the speculation was something different… (we heard things like) Etihad is going to shut down. The speculation is flattering.”
However, Neves said the team’s focus at the moment is to maximize returns for the shareholders. “In the end, IPO is not a destination. We are not here to IPO Etihad. The management is here to make sure we deliver the mandate of the shareholders which is to deliver extraordinary results. Also, the decision to IPO an airline belongs to the shareholders not the management,” he said.
Neves added, “If and when the shareholders the shareholders start (IPO) process, we only know one month before. For that we have to file an intention to float, but there is no filing for intention to float today.”

Turnaround strategy

The airline attributed its robust 2023 performance to successfully completing a turnaround strategy. This strategy involved reorganising the business by concentrating on core airline services and divesting from ancillary support services.

Looking forward, we will continue to deliver on the mandate of our shareholder, which is to be a financially viable airline delivering extraordinary customer experiences.

- Antonoaldo Neves

The carrier explained that the airline also restructured its fleet for efficiency, optimising the destination network and emphasising productivity and cost savings. The airline also moved its new home to Terminal A at Zayed International Airport late last year.

Neves said, “We are blessed to be growing again in the new terminal. The customer satisfaction metrics in this terminal is very high in the new terminal,”

New destinations

Through 2023, the airline also launched 15 new destinations, including Lisbon, Copenhagen, Kolkata and Osaka, and grew its operating fleet by 14 aircraft to support around 30 per cent growth in Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs). Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs) is a metric used in the aviation industry to measure the total passenger-carrying capacity of an airline over a specific period.

Etihad Airways 2023 results at a glance

  • Cargo revenue was Dh3.4 billion ($914 million) in 2023, -38 per cent in 2022, mirroring the overall cooling in global cargo rates
  • Both Cost per Available Seat Kilometre (CASK) and CASK excl. fuel decreased by 8 per cent and 7 per cent year-on-year, respectively
  • Etihad’s passenger load factor stood at 86 per cent, up from 82 per cent in 2022, among the highest among competitors
  • Etihad’s network expanded to 72 destinations with 15 new launches last year, including Boston, Lisbon, Nice, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Bali