Dubai steps in again as pandemic drives Emirates to $5.5 bln loss

An Emirates Airliner
An Emirates airliner. PHOTO/COURTESY:

By Reuters,

Emirates got an additional $1.1 billion in state support from Dubai after a collapse in long-haul travel due to the coronavirus triggered its first full-year loss in over three decades.

Governments around the world have pumped billions of dollars into airlines to keep them afloat during the pandemic and Emirates, which is state-owned, has received $3.1 billion in equity injections from the Dubai government, including $2 billion disclosed last year.

The carrier reported a $5.5 billion full-year loss on Tuesday compared to a $288 million profit a year ago, as revenue plunged 66% to $8.4 billion amid the industry’s worst-ever crisis.

Emirates said the government, its sole shareholder, would continue to support the airline that transformed Dubai into a major international travel hub over the past three decades.

Fellow Gulf carrier Qatar Airways, which is due to report its annual results, has also received $3 billion from its state-owner.

Emirates and Qatar Airways have no domestic market to cushion against border restrictions and closures introduced to stop the spread of COVID-19. While vaccination programmes have put some economies on the road to recovery their slow rollout globally has put international airlines at a disadvantage.

Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said the recovery from the pandemic would be patchy, cautioning that no one could predict when the industry’s worst crisis would end.

The annual loss marks the 36-year-old airline’s first since the 1987-88 fiscal year, while the 6.6 million passengers it carried last year were its lowest in twenty years.

Emirates said it had filled just 44.3% of all seats in the past year, down from an average of 78.4% in the previous fiscal year. Capacity was cut by 82.6% compared to the previous years as operations centered around the airline’s 146 Boeing 777s, of which 19 have been stripped of seats to carry more cargo as the pandemic drastically weakened passenger demand.

Most of Emirates’ 113 Airbus A380s are grounded. Four additional A380s have been removed from operation and are unlikely to return before their scheduled retirement, it said.

Emirates Group, the airline’s holding company that includes other aviation and travel assets, saw revenue fall 65.8% to $9.7 billion and made a loss of $6 billion, its first-ever. The Group’s workforce shrank by 30.8% to 75,145 including 20,000 jobs at the airline, the annual report said.

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