Despite facing a setback of nearly $2 billion in 2016 and losing out on investment partners Airberlin and Alitalia in 2017, Etihad's CEO said it was business as usual, with the airline constantly being driven by change to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
"The core airline has always been operating in a very, very solid way even in most challenging times," CEO Peter Baumgartner said in an interview with CNBC.
The 2016 oil price collapse had hit the Middle Eastern aviation market, including Etihad, which was moving forward on its big global ambitions. "In 2016, local regional markets contracted, accelerating the overcapacity situation on competitive overlapping traffic flows, bringing yields down, Baumgartner revealed during the interview.
"Even though it was kind of a perfect storm, we operated with very solid load factors," Baumgartner said.
Etihad continues to survey its competitive position in the market, in terms of air link to important and emerging economies, capital to capital connections, and so on, he added. "We are determined to turn the airline around. And although that will result in the cutting of some routes this year, like Edinburgh, Scotland and Perth, Australia, we assure you that it will not affect the airline's global ambition," he added.
During the interview with CNBC, Baumgartner also highlighted aspects of the airline's product development and distribution, saying that digital transformation was a key focal point in terms of creating a customised experience.
"Digital transformation allows us to get less dependent on legacy distribution technology and allows us to have those dozens, hundreds, millions of products out there, bundled up, customised, to exactly what travellers want, and need, and make sure that it is at a price that they think is good value. And that’s the transformation that we go very strongly through at Etihad,"
"That means in the future, we will be able to be highly competitive against very price-sensitive leisure audiences, while at the same time deliver on the very same aircraft, the ultra-luxury experience for those people where this matters," he said.
"This is a very agile business, in a very agile environment, and so that’s kind of business as usual," Baumgartner said.
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