Impressive: Etihad “Only” Lost $870 Million In 2019

Filed Under: Etihad

Etihad has just announced their 2019 financial results, which the airline seems quite proud of — Etihad lost “just” $870 million, bringing cumulative losses over the past four years to over $5.6 billion.

In fairness, maybe a loss of just $870 million is impressive, when you consider they lost $1.95 billion in 2016, $1.52 billion in 2017, and $1.28 billion in 2018.

Etihad’s 2019 financial results

Etihad Airways lost $870 million in 2019 on $5.6 billion in revenue. As a point of comparison, in 2018 the airline had a $1.28 billion loss on $5.9 billion in revenue. This means:

  • The airline saw a 32% improvement in core operating performance
  • The airline saw a 55% improvement in core operating performance compared to 2017
  • Etihad’s 2019 loss exceeded their internal expectations
  • The airline reduced direct operating costs by $650 million, or 11%

To look at some other key metrics:

  • Etihad carried 17.5 million passengers in 2019, compared to 17.8 million passengers in 2018
  • Etihad’s load factor was 78.7% in 2019, compared to 76.4% in 2018
  • Etihad’s capacity decreased by 6% in 2019 in terms of available seat kilometers, from 110.3 billion to 104 billion
  • Etihad’s yields increased by 1%
  • Etihad’s passenger revenue decreased to $4.8 billion in 2019, from $5 billion in 2018
  • Etihad’s on-time performance was the best in the region — 82% of departures were on-time, 85% of arrivals were on-time, and 99.6% of flights were completed

As far as operational highlights go:

  • In 2019, Etihad took delivery of eight 787-9s and three 787-10s, while retiring all A330s
  • The fleet count at the end of 2019 was 101, including 95 passenger planes and six cargo planes
  • Etihad’s average fleet age is just 5.3 years
  • As of the end of 2019, Etihad flew to 76 destinations, with frequencies being increased to London Heathrow, Riyadh, Delhi, Mumbai, and Moscow Domodedovo

As Tony Douglas, Etihad Group’s CEO, describes the performance:

“Operating costs were reduced significantly last year and both yields and load factors were increased despite passenger revenues being down due to network optimisation. An improvement to the cost base significantly offset the cost pressures faced by the business, giving us headroom to invest in the guest experience, technology and innovation, and our major sustainability initiatives.

There’s still some way to go but progress made in 2019, and cumulatively since 2017, has instilled in us a renewed vigour and determination to push ahead and implement the changes needed to continue this positive trajectory.”

My take on Etihad’s losses

Oh, Etihad. I mean, an $870 million loss is better than a $1.95 billion loss. But let’s also keep in mind that in previous years much of the losses came from Etihad’s poor investments, including in airberlin, Alitalia, and Jet Airways.

At this point Etihad isn’t wasting as much money on silly investments, but rather is focusing on their core business.

An $870 million loss on $5.6 billion of revenue is still massive. That’s especially true when you consider that this is well into the transformation process, and this loss comes as the airline has allegedly cut direct operating costs by $650 million year over year.

Some metrics are mildly positive, like a 2% increase in load factor and a 1% increase in yield. But when you consider that these results come after the airline has cut all kinds of unprofitable routes, has cost cut their experience and added ancillary revenue, and has optimized their fleet, it doesn’t seem as promising.

Etihad is now well into their five year transformation plan, and I really wonder how they plan on improving performance from here. What’s left for Etihad to optimize at this point?

  1. Are we forgetting to mention the huge cuts in capacity to destinations. Here in Australia Etihad’s Perth to Abu Dhabi has been cut entirely (although they blame QR and EK both flying A380s to Perth). MEL has been reduced, SYD has been reduced and BNE also reduced. There have been no expansion to AUS with EY but Qatar Airways has massively increased capacity and opened new routes and EK has made slight increases to capacity. IMO, it will get worse before it gets better especially in light of recent events for EY

  2. Are there still people flying Etihad? I mean their level of service has hit rock bottom since James Hogan left.

  3. Lucky- whatever happened to your full Apartment review from April 2019? You had a post in Apr-19 previewing how it had been holding up, but promised a full review. In fact I can’t find a trip report at all (the hotels and other airlines as part of that trip).

    Curious how the JFK lounge is as I’m flying roundtrip in the apts this fall from JFK to AUH.

    Additionally, do you know if I’ll be able to access the AUH 1st class lounge if I’m connecting on Sri Lanka flight (it’s a codeshare w/ Etihad though) in business (highest class on the connecting flight to CMB)? Since it was a EY flight in biz (and there was no first class) I’d be allowed in right?

  4. I wonder how it would be if they merged with Emirates and Etihad operated as the more premium version of the two. Etihad could go back to their original plans for a big premium airline but be more boutique in size and fly only to premium destinations with demand for such a product (kind of like Virgin Atlantic). They would need to move into one airport for that to happen though, perhaps DWC?

  5. Ben,

    Quote: “In 2019, Etihad took delivery of eight 787-9s and three 787-10s, while retiring all A330s”

    Not to forget the four A35K that they took delivery of yet decided to store in BOD…

  6. It’s not a great situation for Etihad but they have reduced their losses by $400 million over the course of a year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if their losses have reduced anymore by next year although I assume Coronavirus won’t be doing them any favours. All airlines are going to have a seriously tough few months ahead, Etihad included.

  7. Flew AUH-ORD in J this past January. They advertise dine on demand, but it’s definitely not. Ran out of food half way thru the flight. Couldn’t order any mains or soups. Flight attendants clearly frustrated if you asked for food outside of “normal” times (after takeoff or close to arrival). I doubt they were even out of food and were simply saying that were out of particular dishes. Service wasn’t great. Had previously flown QR qsuites, so maybe expectations were a little off.

  8. and many people are shaming american carriers.
    american carriers gives you best ROI on travel industry… Should’ve have them as larger portion of my portfolio.

  9. You write that, “Etihad’s 2019 loss exceeded their internal expectations” which (to me anyway) reads that the result is worse than expected but the press release states the opposite; that the performance was better than expected.
    Since the airline isn’t publicly owned, we can’t see what’s driving the continuing losses. I’m pretty sure the bulk of the losses over the past few years are writing off the value of the bad investments (instead of P/L from continuing operations) but I’d be curious to see how much (if any) of the value of those they’re still carrying on the balance sheet.

  10. Is it just me or has AA pulled all Etihad inventory for miles bookings? There used to be decent availability until a few days ago but as I looked today and it seems to be all gone. Anyone else noticing this?

  11. The best way to understand Etihad is first to comprehend that the oil rich sheiks of staid, boring old Abu Dhabi were jealous at the meteoric rise of the airline set up by their oil poor but showy neighbours down the road in Dubai.

    When it comes to willy waving in this part of the world, no expense is spared.

    The sad truth is that there simply isn’t room for two different mega hub airlines in the UAE. Hence why after such eye watering losses, even money-no-object Abu Dhabi is on the retreat.

    The logical way forward would be one state airline operating out of a hub like DWC (although it’s a bit far out from Abu Dhabi) and maybe regional flights out of DXB and AUH. Unfortunately this will involve loss of face, so expect many more billions to be spent before that happens…

  12. @BJ said: Additionally, do you know if I’ll be able to access the AUH 1st class lounge if I’m connecting on Sri Lanka flight (it’s a codeshare w/ Etihad though) in business (highest class on the connecting flight to CMB)? Since it was a EY flight in biz (and there was no first class) I’d be allowed in right?

    Watch out for the famous Etihad blank stare, and plan to be refused.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *