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Emirates airline had ‘tough’ 2010, hurt by unrest

Business hurt by natural disasters in 2010; Airlines to face big challenge if oil around at $130

May 3, 2011 3:21 by

Emirates airline, the Arab world’s largest carrier, had a ‘tough’ year in 2010 and has been hurt by political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, its president said on Monday.

Tim Clark said that Emirates, which reports its results for the second half of 2010 on May 10, still managed to stay “on course.”

The airline was affected by last year’s Icelandic volcano eruption and bad weather conditions in Europe last December which closed airports and disrupted travel.

Clark, speaking at a travel industry event in the Gulf Arab emirate, said fuel accounted for 43 percent of the Dubai government-owned airline’s costs.

He added that airlines will face a big challenge if oil prices hover around the $130 a barrel mark until the end of the year. Last month, Brent crude hit a 32-month high above $127 a barrel. Crude futures for June stood at $124.40 at 1225 GMT on Monday.

In March, Clark said load factors — how full Emirates’ planes are — were coming back up after being reduced by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

The airline, the largest customer for the Airbus A380 super jumbo, said it carried 15.5 million passengers in the first half of the year and its passenger load factor stood at 81.2 percent for the period, its highest ever for a six month reporting period.

The carrier had scaled back flights in the wake of unrest in North Africa and Bahrain. It also dropped plans for a bond to finance expansion after the upheaval made rates more expensive.

“We tested the waters earlier but pulled it off the table. Maybe we will look at it again,” Clark said on Monday. “Banks are a little more flushed with funds now. So maybe there’s an indication to lend at rates that are attractive (to us).”

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Writing by Amran Abocar; Editing by Hans Peters))

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