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Etihad has full support of state owner, will resume flights in May: CEO

DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways has the full support of its state shareholder as it plans a partial resumption of passenger flights from May 1, its chief executive Tony Douglas said on Thursday.

Several states have stepped in to assist airlines after the coronavirus outbreak virtually halted all international air travel, though the oil rich Abu Dhabi government has so far not said whether it would help the airline it owns.

“The cumulative gains achieve by our ongoing transformation, and the unwavering support of our shareholder, has left us in a relatively strong position to withstand any instability,” Douglas said in a statement.

Etihad, which has lost $5.6 billion since 2016, halted passenger flights last month and has reduced staff wages by up to 50% for the month of April.

It said it plans to operate a reduced schedule from May 1 until June 30 with the intention of gradually returning to normal operations as the global situation improves.

Governments around the world have imposed strict entry restrictions, including banning their citizens from leaving and the entry of foreigners, and some countries, including the UAE, have halted most air travel.

“We remain cautiously optimistic and will push ahead with our plans to resume normal flying,” Douglas said.

Etihad and other UAE airlines have been operating outbound-only flights for foreigners wishing to leave the Gulf Arab state, which has banned the entry of foreigners.

The airline launched a five-year restructuring program in 2017 and has trimmed its ambition of being a major intercontinental airline to a focus on point-to-point flights.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mike Harrison)

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