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Qatar Airways has blamed a $69m loss on the “illegal” blockade imposed by its neighbours.
In what appears to be a transparent set of accounts, triggered by pressure from the US, the carrier reveals it was forced to cut 18 destinations and operating expenses rose 15% to $11.5bn as the carrier flew longer routes to avoid banned airspace.
Its cargo operations grew, however, with revenue up 34% to $2.4bn, with cargo accounting for more than 22% of the airline’s scheduled services revenue.
As at 31 March 2018, the aircraft fleet comprised 233 aircraft – up from 215 in financial year 2017 – 23 of which are freighters, two more than in the year before.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said: “This turbulent year has inevitably had an impact on our financial results, which reflect the negative effect the illegal blockade has had on our airline.
“However, I am pleased to say that thanks to our robust business planning, swift actions in the face of the crisis, our passenger-focused solutions and dedicated staff, the impact has been minimised – and has certainly not been as negative as our neighbouring countries may have hoped.”
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that Qatar Airways has opened its accounts. It agreed in January to publicise detailed financial information in a bid to stop the US from restricting access and to quell talk of state subsidies.
There is an excellent article in Forbes on the subject, which argues that previous financial reports suffered from “delusions of profitability” – but notes that if the airline can “stomach the initial embarrassment” – which is helped by the blockade excuse, then in fact opening up its accounts will be a blessing, and keep the US carriers quiet.
The accounts show that the carrier’s shareholder, the Qatari government, gave the airline three plots of land and it reveals $110m from the state of Qatar in accounts receivable and prepayments – but it also issued shares to the government.
In the US, meanwhile, the big three have complained again about Qatar – which bought 49% in Meridiana last year and changed the name to Air Italy. It started routes from Milan to Miami and New York. But Qatar Airways had agreed with the US that it would not fly between Europe and the US. Which technically, it isn’t.
And there is also some hypocrisy in the US carriers’ argument, according to Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition.
Yesterday he argued that when American Airlines complains about state subsidies, it seems to forget those given to China’s state-owned airlines – especially China Southern, in which AA has invested $200m.
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