Emirates airline's first-half loss narrows as travel demand rebounds

The airline carried 6.1 million passengers compared with 1.5 million in the same period a year ago

Emirates planes in Dubai. The airline has benefitted from a rebound in travel demand and a strong cargo performance. Reuters
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Emirates, the world's largest long-haul airline, narrowed its loss in the first-half of its fiscal year, amid a rebound in travel demand and stronger performance from its freight business.

First-half losses narrowed to $1.6 billion in the period from April to September, compared with a $3.4bn loss in the same period last year, the airline said in a statement on Wednesday.

Revenue rose 86 per cent to $5.9bn, with the airline carrying 6.1 million passengers, up from 1.5 million in the same period last year. The volume of cargo lifted rose 39 per cent to 1.1 million tonnes, bringing the business segment back to 90 per cent of pre-coronavirus (2019) levels by volume handled.

“As we began our 2021-2022 financial year, Covid-19 vaccination programmes were being rolled out at unprecedented scale around the world. Across the group, we saw operations and demand pick up as countries started to ease travel restrictions. This momentum accelerated over the summer and continues to grow steadily into the winter season and beyond," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates airline and group.

“Our cargo transport and handling businesses continued to perform strongly, providing the bedrock upon which we were able to quickly reinstate passenger services. While there is still some way to go before we restore our operations to pre-pandemic levels and return to profitability, we are well on the recovery path, with healthy revenue and a solid cash balance at the end of our first half of 2021-2022."

As travel demand picked up, Emirates was operating passenger and cargo services to 139 airports as of the end of September, using its entire Boeing 777 fleet and 37 Airbus A380s.

Overall capacity during the first six months of the year increased 66 per cent to 16.3 billion available tonne kilometres as countries eased travel and flight restrictions.

Capacity measured in available seat kilometres, more than tripled at 250 per cent. Passenger traffic carried, which is measured in revenue passenger kilometres, was up 335 per cent while the average passenger seat factor recovered to 47.9 per cent, compared with last year’s pandemic figure of 38.6 per cent.

The Emirates group narrowed its net loss to $1.6bn in the April to September period, compared with a $3.8bn loss in the same period last year.

Group revenue increased 81 per cent to $6.7bn from $3.7bn during the same period last year. The group's cash position remained steady at $5.1bn as of September 30, 2021, compared to $5.4bn at the end of March 2021.

Emirates received additional state support during the fiscal period, with a further injection of $681m by way of an equity investment.

“Our ability to pivot and pull through the toughest period in our history to date, can be attributed to Emirates’ and dnata’s strong brands, high-quality products and services, digital and innovation capabilities, and our amazing people," Sheikh Ahmed said.

"We intend to continue investing in these core areas to take our business into the future, together with the leaner processes and new technology capabilities that we have implemented in the past months.”

Demand at dnata's businesses in cargo and ground handling, catering and retail, and travel services rebounded as travel restrictions were eased.

Dnata posted a $23m profit, compared with a $396m loss last year. Its revenue increased 55 per cent to $1bn from the same period last year.

Updated: November 10, 2021, 10:09 AM