Air travel could hit a high note this year if fuel prices continue to peak, said Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker, adding that all airlines are equally burdened by the rising costs.
This news comes just as Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum announced that Emirates’ fuel cost for the financial year 2011-2012 hit $2 billion.
While most airline chiefs in the Mideast have maintained that fuel price is the main decider of airfares, Al Baker spoke in greater detail about this at the ongoing Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, stating: “Fuel price continues to be a challenge to all airlines. In the case of Qatar Airways, we are hedged up until 2015; however, fuel does form a major of an airline’s annual cost structure.”
Al Baker stated that currently, fuel accounts for 41 per cent of Qatar Airways cost structure, which is approximately 5 percentage points up from the 36 per cent it accounted for in the 2010-2011.
When quizzed if airfares could rise further in 2012 because of the fuel, which has recently averaged $105 a barrel, al Baker said: “I maintain that airfares prices will fluctuate depending on the cost of fuel. Could airfares rise this year? Yes. But we can’t predict anything more.”
Yesterday, Emirates head Sheikh Ahmed also revealed that fuel is now accounting for 40-43 per cent of the airline’s costs, with full-year results being announced later in May.
He further added that Emirates expects its 2011 profits will not be higher than those in 2010 when it posted a 52-per cent rise to $1.5bn.
Both airline chiefs have always vehemently denied that the two Mideast carriers take advantage of fuel subsidies from its respective governments.
Al Baker reiterated it, saying: “I wish the State of Qatar would give us fuel subsidies so we wouldn’t have to hedge. But we buy fuel at market prices and receive no benefit.”
Summer deals in full swing
Meanwhile, as peak summer travel period approaches, industry pundits are advising travellers to make most of the deals that are currently on offer, promoting slashed airfares of up to 25 per cent with some carriers.
Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways being the latest, which announced up to a 25 per cent cuts in fares to European, Asian destinations or 26 selected cities in the regions.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ Chief Commercial Officer, said in a statement: “Savvy travellers understand that the period just before the summer holiday season is the perfect time to book a great value getaway. We are pleased to offer this very special, limited-time offer to our guests so that they may see the world from the comfort of our award-winning Coral Economy and Pearl Business Class, but without breaking the bank.”
The airfares are applicable on Coral Economy and Pearl Business Class bookings but have to be made before May 4, for travel until May 31, 2012. All travel must be completed by May 31, the airline said in a statement sent to Emirates 24l7.
Emirates had announced a similar three-day sale back in February of this year, offering customers discounts of up to 30 per cent to select destinations across its network, with outbound travel to be commenced on or before June 10, 2012.