The government of Abu Dhabi has pumped at least $22 billion into the embattled loss-making national flag carrier Etihad Airways according to sources quoted by Bloomberg. The state aid encompasses the period from the airline’s inception in 2003 to the end of 2019 but does not cover any further assistance that the carrier may have received since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Etihad Airways is privately owned by the oil-rich government of Abu Dhabi and while the airline releases some financial information, it has never publicly revealed how much financial aid the airline has received from its sole shareholder.
Tony Douglas, Etihad’s chief executive, however, recently admitted that the airline had “received remarkable support from our shareholder” when questioned about whether the government had helped to prop up the airline with state aid to see it through the Corona crisis.
“The U.S. airlines have had a massive bailout, many others have all around the world and I can’t see that likely to stop anytime soon,” Douglas said during an interview with CNBC while refusing to say whether Etihad had received a similar bailout.
Regional rival Qatar Airways recently admitted that it had already received a $1.95 billion capital injection from the Qatari government to help weather the COVID storm. In neighbouring Dubai, Emirates has also received a near $2 billion bailout.
And in Europe, Lufthansa has been handed a €9 billion taxpayer-funded bailout from the German government.
Details of how much Etihad has received in financial support were allegedly revealed investor meetings ahead of a recent Sukuk sale (an Islamic financial certificate which is similar to a bond). Sources quoted by Bloomberg remain anonymous as they weren’t authorised to release the details.
In 2016, Etihad recorded a record loss of $1.95 billion, followed a year later with a $1.52 billion. Those losses narrowed to $870 million last year but in the first half of this year, Etihad had already recorded a loss of $758 million.