Etihad Airways posted a loss of $1.28 billion in 2018, extending the deficit over three years to $4.8 billion, as the Gulf carrier pushes ahead with a cost-cutting plan to stabilize the balance sheet.

The Abu Dhabi company, which has abandoned an attempt to build a global network of airline investments after a string of failures, canceled a further nine unprofitable routes last year, it said in an emailed statement Thursday. The review is ongoing and comes alongside a reduced delivery of new planes, with deals to slash $21.4 billion of orders agreed with Boeing Co. and Airbus SE last month.

Chief Executive Officer Tony Douglas said progress is being made in “streamlining our cost base, improving our cash-flow and strengthening our balance sheet.” The annual loss was an improvement on 2017’s $1.52 billion.

Etihad has fallen far behind larger Gulf rival Emirates of Dubai, the world’s biggest long-haul airline, after investments didn’t pay off in the likes of Air Berlin Plc and Alitalia SpA, both now insolvent. The failure of the plan was compounded at the time by a falling oil price, which hurt demand for travel to the Middle East.

Alongside the effort to reduce costs, state-owned Etihad is mulling a potential take over by Dubai’s Emirates, people familiar with the matter said last year, in what would create the world’s biggest carrier by passenger traffic. The airlines have traditionally been arch rivals, competing to attract the same transfer passengers making long-distance trips between Asia and the West.

Etihad’s discontinued routes last year included Tehran, Dallas/Fort Worth and Ho Chi Minh City. Passenger numbers fell to 17.8 million passengers, from 18.6 million the previous year, while revenue was flat at $5 billion.

 

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Photo Credit: Attendees walk passed an Airbus SE A380 passenger aircraft, operated by Etihad Airways PJSC, as it stands on the tarmac during the 15th Dubai Air Show at Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. The biennial Dubai expo is an important venue for both manufacturers to secure deals for their biggest and most expensive jetliners. Natalie Naccache / Bloomberg