By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Etihad Group CEO Tony Douglas said that fuel efficient aircraft will ultimately help the airline's bottom line
Etihad Aviation Group has “still got a long way to go” before returning to profit, according to Group CEO Tony Douglas.
Despite implementing a turnaround strategy in 2017 – which saw overhead costs reduced, unprofitable routes dropped, jobs cuts and airplane orders restructured – the company saw a third consecutive year of losses in 2018.
On Monday at the Dubai Airshow, Etihad Airways and Boeing announced an ‘eco partnership’ in which a specially-themed Boeing 787 Dreamliner – a ‘Greenliner’ – will be used to test products, procedures and initiatives designed to reduce aircraft carbon emissions.
Answering questions from reporters as to when the airline would return to profitability, Douglas said that “we’ve still got a long way to go.”
“We’re slightly ahead of where planned to be and if we stay focused – and do the right things like this [the Greenliner] for the right reasons – we’ll all see a very strong Etihad in the future,” he added.
The Greenliner, which will be introduced early next year will be used by Etihad and Boeing to explore and assess various sustainability initiatives while the aircraft flies scheduled services across the Etihad network.
Additionally, Etihad announced that it will operate a Boeing 787 ‘eco flight’ between Abu Dhabi and Brussels during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January 2020, which will incorporate several different environmental-focused initiatives.
In his remarks on Monday, Douglas said that the new environmental initiatives will ultimately have a positive impact on Etihad’s bottom line.
“From an operator, 25 percent of the operating cost of an airline is normally the fuel bill,” he said. “Anything that can make a big reduction in the fuel bill makes sense economically from a profit and loss account point of view, but because it directly impacts CO2 as a result of the fuel burn. That’s where the opportunity lays.”
Douglas added that even a 2 to 5 percent improvement would be significant.
“What we’re looking at with 787 Greenliner is in excess of a 27 percent improvement on fuel burn over anything else that we’ve ever operated,” he said. “I’d almost characterise that as a small step for mankind and a giant leap for us as Etihad.”