Etihad Airways profits and passenger numbers continue upsurge

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Etihad Airways, the United Arab Emirates’ fast-growing national carrier, said Thursday its profit rose by more than half to $73 million last year as it carried more passengers and used its stakes in other airlines to drive traffic through its Abu Dhabi hub.

The government-backed airline said its earnings rose 52 per cent over the $48 million it said its stand-alone airline business earned the previous year, marking its fourth year of profitability.

“Our shareholder has set a clear commercial mandate for this business and we continue to deliver against that mandate. Our focus is on sustainable profitability,” President and CEO James Hogan said in a statement.

Etihad and rivals Qatar Airways and Dubai-based Emirates are rapidly expanding, funneling mainly long-haul passengers and cargo through their growing Gulf hubs. U.S. airlines have criticized the carriers, saying they are distorting the market by benefiting from unfair state subsidies – a charge the Gulf airlines deny.

Etihad’s revenue for the year increased to $7.6 billion from $6 billion in 2013.

That increase was helped by a 22-per cent jump in passenger numbers to 14.8 million as the airline continued to add capacity with the addition of new planes.

The carrier also grew its route network, launching services to 10 new destinations, including tourist hotspots like Rome and Phuket, Thailand, as well as the American cities of Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco.

Etihad credited its sales growth in part on its strategy of partnering with other carriers through minority equity stakes and codeshares outside of longer-standing traditional airline alliances. Those partnerships contributed $1.1 billion in revenues in 2014, the airline said.

Etihad owns stakes in Air Berlin, Air Seychelles, Ireland’s Aer Lingus, India’s Jet Airways, Virgin Australia and Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline. In 2014, it won final approval for a 49-per cent investment in Serbia’s national carrier, Air Serbia, and completed a deal for a similarly large stake in Italy’s Alitalia.

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