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Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, reported a 43 percent jump in 2013 net profit on Thursday helped by higher revenue and lower fuel costs although runway maintenance work will impact income this year.

The world’s fourth carrier of international passengers posted a profit of 3.3 billion dirhams ($898.4 million) for the year to March 31 up from 2.3 billion a year earlier, it said in a statement.

The world’s biggest customer of the Airbus A380 superjumbo said profit for the wider Emirates Group, which includes airline services arm Dnata, rose 32 percent to 4.1 billion dirhams.

“It’s been a good year. There was growth in our business all round and fuel costs fell by about 4 percent last year, which helped,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates, told a news conference.

Revenue grew 13 percent at both the airline and group level, to 82.6 billion dirhams and 87.8 billion dirhams, respectively.

Sheikh Ahmed warned that upgrade work at Dubai International Airport would mean the airline would lose 1 billion dirhams of revenue in 2014.

This reiterates an estimate the airline’s president, Tim Clark, gave last month. Dubai plans around 80 days of work to upgrade and refurbish the airport’s two runways, starting in May.

Emirates and its home base Dubai are betting that its location – a third of the world’s population is within a 4-hour flight radius – will continue to attract passenger traffic away from hubs such as London, New York and Singapore.

The carrier, along with other regional giants Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, are aggressively expanding, drawing the ire of European counterparts who complain Gulf airlines receive preferential treatment from their governments.

“Our competition continues to lobby governments to pressure us. We just have to stay ahead of the others, which is why we are investing so much into our businesses,” Sheikh Ahmed said, adding Emirates invested 22 billion dirhams into its business last year.

Seat occupancy, or seat factor, averaged 79.4 percent, the airline said, describing this as “nearly consistent” with the previous year despite a 15-percent increase in seat capacity measured by available seat kilometres.

Emirates paid a dividend of around 1 billion dirhams to Investment Corporation of Dubai, the state investment vehicle which owns stakes in a host of Dubai companies. This was broadly in line with the figure for 2012, Emirates said.

($1 = 3.6730 UAE Dirhams)

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; writing by David French; editing by Matt Smith and Jason Neely)

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Tags: earnings, emirates air

Photo Credit: Emirates is soaring. Caren Firouz / Reuters