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ABU DHABI: Etihad Airways, privately owned by the Abu Dhabi government, has reported a net profit of US$73 million on revenue of US$7.6 billion for 2014. Earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) were up 32.5 percent to US$257 million.

The announcement prompted Jill Zuckerman, a spokesperson for the U.S. airline lobby group Partnership for Open & Fair Skies to declare: "Etihad continues to claim that it is profitable, but it refuses to open its books because it knows the subsidies it receives from the treasury of the United Arab Emirates are in direct violation of Open Skies policies. Just because Etihad says it is profitable, doesn't make it so."

Etihad economic impactCommenting on the lobbying by American, Delta and United against the Gulf-based carriers, Etihad CEO James Hogan said: "Although our growth continued strictly to plan in 2014, we are currently faced with unprecedented external challenges. Of particular concern has been the rise in aggressive protectionist sentiment in Europe and the U.S., where both Etihad Airways and its partner airlines are being targeted. These attempts to limit competition are detrimental to consumer choice. They threaten to damage the significant progress that our airline has made in offering improved travel connections, product and service standards, and value for money."

In a further bid to defend its position, Etihad has released a study by Oxford Economics (right) that claims the airline will make an annual contribution of US$6.2 billion to the US economy and support 46,200 American jobs by 2020.

According to Vijay Poonoosamy, vice president International and Public Affairs for Etihad, the report - funded by the airline – says Etihad will have contributed US$41 billion to U.S. GDP by 2020 via its purchase of Boeing aircraft, GE engines and day-to-day flight operations.

Poonoosamy said the economic benefits of connectivity between the U.S. and destinations served by Etihad are valued by Oxford Economics at US$410 million this year, rising to an expected US$850 million by 2020. He added this number includes 80,000 tonnes of cargo that will be carried to and from the U.S. in 2015 – much of it on three Atlas Air B747 freighters operated on behalf of Etihad Cargo.

Etihad's cargo division reported a 19.2 percent increase in 2014 revenue to US$1.1 billion, with freight and mail volumes rising from 487,000 to 569,000 tonnes.

"Etihad Cargo has consistently outperformed the global market. Its impressive 17 per cent growth in freight tonne kilometres in 2014 is four times the industry average," said Hogan. "Today, Etihad Cargo is one of the largest cargo operators in the world. We are forecasting significant growth for 2015, driven by key initiatives to expand its capacity and scope, and to leverage equity and other partnerships," he added.

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