Etihad Airways has reported a loss of just over US$1.5 billion for its core airline operations in 2017.

The figure is an improvement of $432 million on the $1.95 billion loss recorded in 2016, and follows a year of changes including route rationalisation, the removal of premium chauffeur drive services at international destinations, and the introduction of buy-on-board choices.

Etihad said that the 22 per cent improvement in its core operating performance had been achieved “despite facing challenges including significant fuel cost increases, the entry into administration of its equity partners Alitalia and Air Berlin, and initial investment in a comprehensive business transformation programme”.

Cost-cutting initiatives saw the carrier reduce administration and general expenses by $162 million compared with 2016.

A total of 18.6 million passengers flew with the airline in 2017, at an average load factor of 78.5 per cent.

In recent months Etihad has announced route cuts and cancellations including the dropping of Edinburgh and Perth, and the halving of flights to New York.

The carrier will however launch a new service to Barcelona in November.

Commenting on the results, Etihad Airways CEO Peter Baumgartner said:

“Our transformation process has delivered tangible results to date, with a significant improvement in performance for 2017.

“Passenger yields for the last quarter were up a very healthy 9 per cent versus the same period a year before. On-time performance was at record levels and operationally we continue to drive down costs without compromising on safety or quality across all areas of the business.

“The major driver to becoming a more agile and efficient organisation, resilient in a very competitive landscape, is our continued investment in skilled professionals, technology and digital innovation, which is going to allow us to become smarter, faster and even more responsive to the ever-changing needs of our customers, making Etihad the airline of choice. These developments are at the heart of our transformation strategy.”