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Emirates airline profits sink 82% amid ‘destabilising events’

Emirates airline said full-year 2016-17 profit plunged 82 per cent to Dh1.3bn ($340m) as an erosion in travel demand delivered one of the Dubai carrier’s “most challenging years to date.”

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman, said the airline’s business capabilities and brand had “helped us to weather the destabilising events which have impacted travel demand during the year.”

He said the government-owned airline had been hit by the UK’s vote to leave the EU, terror attacks in Europe, new US policies on air travel to the US, currency devaluation and a sluggish oil and gas industry.

Emirates, delivering its 29th year of consecutive profit, said it managed to keep revenues stable at Dh85.1bn, despite significant currency devaluations against the US dollar and “fare adjustments due to a highly competitive business environment.”

The airline said “the relentless rise” of the US dollar against currencies in most of Emirates’ key markets had a Dh2.1bn impact on revenues.

Operating costs rose 8 per cent over the previous financial year as a slightly lower cost of jet fuel was offset by the rising expense of a capacity increase to bring fuel costs up by six percent.

Emirates carried a record 56.1m passengers, up 8 per cent, which it said demonstrated “the consumer desire to fly on Emirates’ state-of-the-art aircraft, and via efficient routings through its Dubai hub.”

But passenger seat factor – measuring how many seats are filled on flights – declined to 75.1 per cent on “lingering economic uncertainty and strong competition in many markets.”

The airline increased capacity by seven per cent in 2016-17 over the previous year as it received 35 new aircraft – including 19 A380s and 16 Boeing 777-300ERs – while phasing out 27 older aircraft.

Emirates launched six new passenger destinations: Fort Lauderdale, Hanoi, Newark, Yangon, Yinchuan and Zhengzhou.

The Emirates Group, which also includes airport services, reported a Dh2.5bn profit, down 70 per cent on the previous financial year.

Emirates will not pay a dividend this year to its shareholder, the Investment Corporation of Dubai, the government’s state holding company.