Dubai’s Emirates Group reported a 67% jump in full-year profit and said there are no plans to merge with Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi airline that’s shrinking operations following a record loss.
“Many people have reported there will be a merger,” chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
“There is no such thing. Not at all. I think when we talk about synergy today, it is between Emirates and FlyDubai.” There have never been talks with Etihad about a merger, he added.
Local press reports have suggested that a deal might be on the horizon after state-controlled Etihad posted a US$1.87 billion loss in 2016 following the failure of an alliance-building strategy that saw it pour cash into Air Berlin and Alitalia, which later filed for insolvency.
The airline group's chairman also played down the impact of a staffing shortage that Tim Clark, the airline’s president, said last month had led to the idling of planes and paring back of flights.
Emirates is short of “small numbers” of cabin crew and doesn’t lack pilots as it seeks to better match recruitment to the arrival of new aircraft, Sheikh Ahmed said. The overall headcount fell 2 percent during the year to just above 103,000.
The world’s biggest long-haul carrier boosted net income to US$1.1 billion in the 12 months ended March 31, with earnings rebounding after a slump in the previous fiscal year as Emirates pared frequencies to destinations including the U.S. and higher crude prices lifted sales from the region’s oil-based economies.
The carrier is reaping benefits from closer ties to sister company FlyDubai, pushing any deal with Etihad off the agenda, according to Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
The earnings indicate Emirates is emerging from the toughest operating conditions in its three-decade history. The carrier has become an industry heavyweight by exploiting the Gulf’s position at a natural global crossroads, something that Etihad had sought to replicate.