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Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways loses $758 million in first half


DUBAI (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said its core operating loss deepened to $758 million in the first half of the year as passenger traffic fell by nearly 60% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state carrier suspended regular, scheduled passenger flights in March due to the pandemic. Those services began to resume June.

Its core operating loss was up nearly 30% from $586 million a year ago as the airline carried around 3.5 million passengers compared with 8.2 million in the first half of 2019.

Total revenue fell 38% to $1.7 billion, though cargo revenue increased 37% to $490 million, it said in a statement.

Aviation has been one of the industries worst hit during the COVID-19 crisis, forcing airlines to lay off staff and seek government bailouts. Etihad has slashed jobs and salaries.

Etihad, which had lost $5.62 billion in the four years prior to 2020, said it had started the year strongly before the pandemic brought global travel to a near halt.

At the end of the first quarter, it was on track to achieve $900 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) this year compared with $453 million in 2019, Chief Financial Officer Adam Boukadida said.

Prior to the pandemic, Etihad had targeted returning to profitability in 2023 after a five-year turnaround plan that involved shrinking the fleet, network and workforce.

Chief Executive Tony Douglas said the airline had revised its outlook for the rest of 2020, without saying what that outlook was, and that it expected to be operating half as many flights as it did prior to the pandemic by September.

Though Etihad has resumed some regular international flights, unlike Dubai, most foreign visitors remain banned from flying to Abu Dhabi due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

In the April - June period, Etihad carried 30,000 passengers, filling 16% of available seats, compared with 3.43 million and filling 74% of available seats in January - March period.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Holmes)

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