UAE's long-haul operator Etihad Airways swung to a record-breaking profit during the first half of 2022 despite high fuel costs, as the travel sector started to recover from the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Core operating profit for January to June reached $296 million, compared to a loss of $392 million in the same period last year, the airline said in a statement on Thursday.

During the same period, the airline carried 4.02 million passengers, up by more than three million compared to a year ago's 980,000. 

Passenger loads grew consistently over the first six months, rising by 21.9 percentage points, as passengers started travelling again. Passenger volumes rose significantly in February, as the UAE capital further eased restrictions.

The airline's passenger revenues also tripled, climbing to $1.25 billion from $320 million, as more business and leisure travellers returned to the air.

Its cargo business continued to post positive results, with revenues rising by 6% to $802 million.

The airline had expanded its network acpacity, connecting the UAE capital to 71 passenger and cargo destinations across 45 countries. During the first half of the year, Etihad launched five summer services to cater to more passengers travelling to certain destinations, including Heraklion on the island of Crete and the Frency city of Nice.

While its business improved, the airline continued to keep a tight lid on outgoings. Fixed overhead and finance costs fell by 9% and 13%, respectively, during the first half of the year.

"In the first half, we managed to further reduce our fixed overhead and finance costs by $50 million compared to H1 2021, reduce the level of debt on our balance sheet and improve our EBITDA by more than $600 million," said Adam Boukadida, Chief Financial Officer of Etihad.

"While ramping up our operations and recording a four-fold increase in passenger volumes, we kept a tight hold on our cost base. As a result, our operating costs only rose by 26% despite a 46% increase in deployed capacity."

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Mily Chakrabarty)