Etihad is expecting to make a first quarter profit for the first time in 18 years, its chief executive has announced.
“Load factors for March were greater than March 2019,” Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas said at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit on April 7, 2022. “It’s the first time we’ve had a stellar first quarter in the history of the business.”
The first quarter of a calendar year is usually the weakest in terms of demand and profit for airlines.
Douglas said that load factors in its premium cabins were actually higher than before the pandemic. However, it’s not people traveling on business accounts, but those wanting to pay extra for a bit more space following the pandemic.
“The latent demand for travel is greater now than at any time,” Douglas declared. “We’ve seen it go off like a fire hydrant as travel restrictions eased, especially in the premium cabin.”
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has been undergoing a big restructuring program under Douglas after a previous strategy to expand quickly by taking stakes in other airlines resulted in big losses.
Douglas admitted that that strategy was the wrong one.
“The trap we were sucked into in the past was that big is beautiful, when it wasn’t necessarily.”
As a result, Etihad was already engaged in “open heart surgery” on its balance sheet when the pandemic struck, Douglas said. “We perhaps learned the hard way you have to go back to basics.”
Douglas said that Etihad’s will concentrate on keeping things more simple. The fleet will focus on a “two-horse stable” of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350-1000, he said, describing these two aircraft as “winners”. Narrow-body flights will be done more in partnership, he said, highlighting the carrier’s partnership with Air Arabia.