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Emirates airline cuts annual loss to $1.1bn as travel rebounds

Despite the annual loss, Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum was bullish about the Group's recovery Creative Commons
Despite the annual loss, Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum was bullish about the Group's recovery

Dubai’s Emirates airline today posted an annual loss of $1.1 billion, a sharp improvement on the $5.5 billion loss in the previous year, as demand for international travel was boosted by governments easing pandemic-related curbs.

The airline, which only operates international services, reported a 91 percent jump in revenue to $16.1 billion for the year ended March 31 as passenger numbers tripled to 19.6 million.

“Business recovery picked up pace particularly in the second half of the year,” chairman and chief executive officer Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in a statement.

The state-owned airline said it filled 58.6 percent of seats flown, up from 44.3 percent a year earlier, while the number of destinations it served increased from 120 at the start of the financial year to more than 140 as of March 31.

It was the airline’s second consecutive annual loss and only the fourth in its almost 40-year operational history.

Emirates has forecast a return to profitability this financial year, while Sheikh Ahmed said the Emirates Group, which includes the airline, would too.

“This year, we focused on restoring our operations quickly and safely wherever pandemic-related restrictions eased across our markets,” Sheikh Ahmed said, while cautioning the Group was closely tracking the impact of high fuel prices and inflation.

Chief operating officer Adel Al Redha warned this week that while Emirates was managing high fuel prices and inflation, the current oil price was not sustainable for airlines.

He said air fares would increase, though airlines would have to absorb some costs so as not to stifle the rebound in travel.

Emirates Group reported a $1 billion loss for the year, with revenue rising 86 percent to $18.1 billion. The Group’s global airport and travel services business dnata made a $30 million profit.

Sheikh Ahmed said this week he hoped the airline would after the current financial year be able to start paying back the 15 billion dirhams ($4.1 billion) it received from the Dubai government during the pandemic.

Gulf rival Qatar Airways, whose financial year also ended March 31, is yet to report its annual results.