DOHA Qatar Airways, the Gulf state's rapidly growing flag carrier, made a small net loss in the last financial year which ended in March because of high oil prices, its chief executive said on Monday.
"We had a very small loss because of the huge increase in oil price," Akbar al-Baker told reporters.
"Profit on an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) level was 47 percent above the previous year, but on a net level we made a small loss. For the 2010-2011 financial year, we made a substantial profit."
He did not elaborate. Qatar Airways, which is not listed on a stock market, does not regularly disclose its earnings.
The airline carried 14.3 million passengers last financial year, a number which is expected to increase to 17 million in the current year, Baker said.
The increase "will come with new routes and expansion of frequencies", he said. The airline currently has about 111 aircraft and Baker said it received one new aircraft on average every 15 days.
He also said the opening of the first phase of Qatar's planned $11 billion new airport would be delayed until June next year after a contractor was dropped from the project. The airport was originally due to open this December; Qatar hopes it will develop the tiny state as a regional aviation hub.
"It is because we asked a contractor to demobilise, because they were falling behind the milestones. It was a unanimous decision by the committee building the airport to appoint another contractor."
In June Lindner Depa, an interior fitting joint venture between Dubai-based Depa Ltd and Germany's Lindner AG, had its 900 million UAE dirham contract to fit out the Doha International Airport terminated.
Baker declined to give the name of the new contractor, but said it would be responsible for construction of all 18 airport lounges. The planned airport is to be opened in three phases and completed by 2015, with eventual capacity to accommodate 50 million passengers.
Baker said that as a customer, he was in favour of a potential $45 billion merger between Europe's EADS EAD.PA and BAE Systems (BAES.L) to form the world's biggest aerospace and defence company. The firms revealed last week that they were in talks on a merger.
"It will enhance their product, and it is good for an airline to have two major contributors to the Airbus aircraft getting together as one company. This would bring efficiency and reduce the cost of the product. Of course I'm in favour of it." (Reporting by Regan Doherty, Editing by Andrew Torchia)