Etihad Airways suffered a $758 million loss in the first half of the year as Covid-19 led to a 58% fall of passenger carryings.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline saw passenger numbers decline to 3.5 million from 8.2 million in the same period the previous year.

The airline saw a “significant decrease” in second-quarter operating revenues following Covid-19 flight suspensions, with 70% of its fleet grounded.

This period registered a 99% drop in passenger numbers over the same three months in 2019.

Etihad operated up to 40 of its fleet of 97 passenger aircraft in the quarter to carry cargo.

Thousands of jobs are being cut and salary sacrifices of between 25% and 50% introduced.

However, the carrier expects to reinstate capacity to half the pre-coronavirus levels by next month.

Etihad Aviation Group chief executive Tony Douglas said: “Etihad, like all major airlines, has had no choice but to embrace the ambiguity of the situation it has been thrown into, and with much sadness, we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions to reduce the size of the workforce by several thousand. Those who have departed Etihad have done so with incredible dignity and their contribution has been immeasurable.

“Etihad flew into the Covid-19 era with uncertainty but is re-emerging resilient, if a little battle-scarred, with a renewed focus on its core values.

“We are retraining our people throughout the organisation to deliver a new product for a new reality, based on the development and delivery of Etihad Wellness well into the foreseeable future.”

He added: “Etihad faced a set of enormous and unpredictable challenges in the first six months of the year.

“We started 2020 strong, and recorded encouraging results as part of our continuing transformation programme.

“This left us in a relatively robust position when Covid-19 hit, allowing us to act with agility, and to mobilise all available resources as the crisis deepened, taking major steps to reduce costs through a wide-reaching series of measures.

“While we have revised our outlook for the rest of 2020 based on current realities, we remain optimistic that as international borders re-open, we will increase our flying and carry more guests securely and with greater peace of mind, supported by the Etihad Wellness programme and our new Wellness Ambassadors.

“By September, we aim to increase our worldwide flights to half our pre-Covid-19 capacity.

“Looking forward, we rest assured that the UAE is leading the way in the research for a vaccine against Covid-19.

“The incredible efforts Abu Dhabi is making to ensure the safety and security of its residents and visitors will soon enable us to welcome the world back to our amazing home. This commitment was successfully highlighted by the recent hosting of major UFC events in the capital.”

Chief financial officer Adam Boukadida added: “This year started strong, riding on the positive momentum gained in 2019, and by the end of the first quarter, the airline was on track to achieve a 2020 ebitda of $900 million.

“Etihad managed to maintain a satisfactory level of liquidity despite a major drop in revenues, while continuing to raise new liquidity facilities supported by local and international financial institutions.

“Etihad was one of a small number of airlines to maintain its pre-Covid-19 credit rating.

“A greater emphasis is being placed on a drive towards increased cost optimisation and efficiencies across the entire business to face the hurdles placed in our way by Covid-19.

“Our suppliers and partners have also worked closely with us, including the arrangement of payment holidays with lessors and savings discussions with all of our supply chain, so we can re-emerge stronger together.”