Qatar Airways swung to an annual profit in its last fiscal year on the back of higher cargo volumes and surging passenger traffic, stemming losses that began in 2017 and worsened after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The airline posted a net profit of 5.6 billion Qatari rials ($1.5bn) for the fiscal year ended March 31, compared to a loss of 14bn rials a year earlier, it said in a statement on Thursday.
Revenue for the year increased 78 per cent year-on-year to 52.3bn rials.
Passenger revenue increased by 210 per cent over the past year due to the growth of its network, increase in market share and higher unit revenue, it said.
The airline carried 18.5 million passengers during the fiscal year, up more than three times compared to the previous year, but below pre-Covid levels.
The airline's performance was also helped by the growth of its cargo business as it transported more than three million tonnes of air freight, up from 2.72 million tonnes a year earlier. Cargo revenue grew 25 per cent annually.
Air cargo has been a bright spot since the onset of the pandemic for the aviation industry, with strong yields providing a lifeline for airlines, partially due to bottlenecks and delays in the maritime shipping industry.
The global aviation industry is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic as restrictions ease around the world and pent-up demand for travel drives the rebound.
In the first quarter of this year, travel demand recovered to 48 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the International Air Transport Association said. In some parts of the world, including Europe, North America and Latin America, the recovery reached about 60 per cent.
Qatar Airways would have grown its network at a faster pace, helping the business fundamentals to a greater degree, if additional capacity had been available, said Akbar Al Baker, the airline's group chief executive.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the group's control, we continue to face significant challenges to our fleet capacity, which has created an adverse impact on the optimisation of our ongoing operations, as well as upon our network expansion plans,” he said.
Qatar Airways is locked in a court case with European plane maker Airbus after surface paint damage on its A350s led the airline to ground 24 of its A350 wide-body jets.
The airline said these flaws represent a safety issue with the aircraft — allegations that the manufacturer and Europe's air safety regulator deny.