But there were still severe headwinds, indicated Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum — margins continued to face strong downward pressure from increased competition and rising oil prices, as well as “weak economic and uncertain political realities in many parts of the world.”
In its 2016/17 financial year, Emirates — the biggest airline in the Middle East — reported its first full-year profit decline for five years as subdued travel demand saw earnings plunge 82 percent. An inflated US currency, political and security issues, as well as airline overcapacity, were cited as factors behind the grim trading picture last year.
But in the first six months of 2017/18 to end-September, Emirates reported that its average passenger seat factor — a key metric for airlines which measures how many seats are filled on flights — rose to 77.2 percent, compared with last year’s 75.3 percent. The airline carried 29.2 million passengers between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2017, up 4 percent from the same period last year.
The airline said: “The easing of the strong US dollar against other major currencies helped our profitability. We are also seeing the benefit from various initiatives across the company to enhance our capability and efficiency with new technologies and new ways of working.”
In the past six months, employee numbers at Emirates Group — which includes its air freight and ground handling operations — reduced by 3 percent compared to March 31 2017, from an overall staff count of 105,746 to 102,669.
Airline employee numbers were cut from 64,768 to 63,039.
“This was largely a result of natural attrition together with a slower pace of recruitment, as various parts of the business adopted new technologies, streamlined business processes and re-allocated resources,” said Emirates.
Airline revenue of $12.1 billion was up 6 percent compared with $11.4 billion reported during the same period last year.
Emirates said it continued to invest in the most advanced wide-body aircraft to improve overall efficiency and provide better customer experience. During the first half, Emirates received 10 wide-body aircraft — four Airbus A380s, and six Boeing 777s, with nine more new aircraft scheduled to be delivered before the end of the financial year. It also retired five older aircraft from its fleet with further four to be returned by March 31, 2018.
Emirates launched two new passenger services to Zagreb (Croatia) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia).
As of Sept. 30, Emirates’ global network spanned 156 destinations in 84 countries. Its fleet stood at 264 aircraft including freighters.
In July, the airline announced a partnership with Flydubai, leveraging both airlines’ complementary networks to open new city-pair routings for customers, and optimize operations at Dubai International Airport. Emirates also announced it would extend its successful partnership with Qantas for a further five years that will offer travelers more flight choices to and from Australia and New Zealand.
Overall profit for dnata, Emirates’ airport handling and airlines services division, was up by 20 percent to $80 million. Across its operations, the number of aircraft handled by dnata increased by 11 percent to 330,317, and it handled 1.5 million tons of cargo, up 25 percent.
This reflected new customer contracts won across the network, and expansion to new locations such as Rio de Janeiro and Amsterdam (ground handling) as well as the overall upturn in global cargo volumes.