BERLIN (Reuters) - Qatar Airways will report a second consecutive annual lost this year, its chief executive said on Wednesday, blaming higher fuel costs and unfavorable currency exchange rates.
The state-owned airline has rapidly expanded to new destinations since it lost access to 18 Middle East cities in 2017 due to a diplomatic rift between Qatar and some other Arab states.
“We announced a loss last year and we will announce another loss this year but it doesn’t mean that Qatar Airways is not going to expand or invest,” Akbar al-Baker told reporters at the ITB travel fair in Berlin.
“We have a very strong balance sheet - regardless if we are temporarily making losses because of our additional operating costs, and the rising fuel price and the loss of (foreign) exchange.”
The airline’s financial year ends on March 31.
Qatar Airways lost access to cities in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain in June 2017 when those four countries cut ties with Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the charges.
The airline has also been banned from their airspace, meaning its flights to the west and south of the Gulf have to fly longer routes around the four countries, increasing its fuel costs.
The carrier reported a $69 million loss last year, which it blamed on the higher operating costs caused by the dispute.
Last year, Baker said the airline’s owners might have to put in additional equity if the dispute continued over the long term.
However, on Wednesday he said he did not expect to seek a capital injection in the foreseeable future.
Qatar Airways announced seven new destinations on Wednesday, including Malta and Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and said it would announce a further seven in the second half of this year.
It will continue to operate its fleet of 10 Airbus A380 aircraft for the “foreseeable future,” Baker said.
Airbus announced last month it would end A380 production in 2021.
Reporting by Caroline Copley, writing by Alexander Cornwell, editing by Susan Fenton