The chief executive of Etihad Airways has said that July was its best month in a year and a half as countries eased travel restrictions on the back of accelerated vaccination programmes.
The Abu Dhabi airline average load factor – a measure of how well the airline fills available seats – increased to 40 per cent in July compared with 25 per cent over the first six months of the year, Tony Douglas said. He was speaking at an online event organised by aviation consultancy CAPA.
“July was our best month in the last year and a half … that was a function of a number of things,” Mr Douglas said, adding that “vaccination curves” increased in many countries leading to easing of travel restrictions.
“In Abu Dhabi … we started to see the green list now considerably increase. To put into perspective, what we have observed in Abu Dhabi is that every time a country goes on to the green list, within the following week, our sales go up.”
The UAE’s capital removed quarantine requirements for all vaccinated travellers from September 5, but put in place certain regulations pertaining to PCR tests.
While vaccinated travellers do not need to quarantine, those travelling from countries included in the green list must take a PCR test on arrival and another test on day six if staying in the emirate. Vaccinated travellers arriving from other destinations – not on the green list – must take a PCR test on arrival, and have further tests on day four and eight if staying in the emirate.
“It’s still very difficult and we need to be realistic in managing costs with an obsession to detail but I think equally, there is a cause for some optimism now as vaccination in particular gathers momentum,” Mr Douglas said.
As of Thursday, more than 5.59 billion doses have been administered across 184 countries, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
The state-owned airline halved its operating loss in the first six months of 2021 as it reduced costs and expanded its network and cargo business.
Etihad Airways’ cargo revenue jumped 56 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2021 to $800 million as it carried 365.5 tonnes of freight, an increase of 44 per cent from the same period a year ago, it said in August.
The airline, which is executing a five-year turnaround plan, slashed operating costs by 27 per cent year-on-year to $1.4 billion.
“The emirate has delivered one of the world’s best public health programmes … with an extremely high vaccination rate and smart technologically-driven solutions such as the Al Hosn app to ensure the safety of residents and visitors,” Mr Douglas said.
In February 2021, Etihad became the first airline in the world with 100 per cent of operating pilots and cabin crew on board vaccinated to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the company said last month.
Etihad Airways currently operates 64 aircraft, including five freighters. The backbone of the Etihad fleet is the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, of which it has 39 Boeing 787-9s and 787-10s in the fleet.
Since the beginning of the year, Etihad launched or resumed operations to 10 destinations, including services to Tel Aviv in April.