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Qatar Airways defiant as blockade generates heavy losses

Middle Eastern carrier Qatar Airways has revealed a full-year group pre-tax loss of QR156 million ($43 million), as the airline reeled from the effect of a Gulf blockade on the state.

Qatar Airways Group has turned in a net loss of more than QR251 million for the year to 31 March 2018, compared with the previous full-year profit of QR2.9 billion.

The airline says the year has been “the most challenging” in its history. Ten of the 12 months were affected by the blockade imposed by several Gulf states in June last year.

Qatar Airways points out that its revenues rose by 7.4% to just under QR42 billion but operating expenses were up by 15% to QR42.2 billion.

The airline posted an operating loss of nearly QR20 million in contrast to the previous operating profit of QR2.65 billion.

Qatar Airways says the “illegal” blockade had a detrimental effect of 19% on departing seats.

It adds that its earnings were affected by longer flight times – the result of airspace restrictions arising from the blockade – and that it had to close 18 mature routes after its operations to the states involved were banned.

Chief executive Akbar Al Baker remains defiant in the face of the “turbulent” period.

“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,” he says.

“[It] has certainly not been as negative as our neighbouring countries may have hoped for.”

Qatar Airways opened 14 new destinations during the financial year – among 24 since the blockade was imposed – but the carrier points out that such new routes involve investment to establish market presence. But the cash position stayed “strong”, it says, at QR13.3 billion.

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