Singapore Airlines has posted its highest-ever annual profit yesterday on a rebound in demand for air travel, and said it expects this trend to continue into the first quarter of fiscal 2024. The flag carrier's results come as the aviation industry grapples with supply chain bottlenecks and a more cautious outlook in Asia as per the latest numbers from the region.

"The demand for air travel remains healthy in the first quarter of FY2024/25, supported by a strong pickup in forward bookings to North Asia and Southeast Asia," it said.

The airline cautioned that passenger yields would likely continue to moderate as airlines bring more capacity online, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

SIA Group saw a higher demand for air freight from Asia in the second half of the year, as security concerns in the Red Sea region aided a change in mode of transportation.

Passenger load factor — a measure of how many seats are filled on planes — for the group as a whole was 88% for the year, compared with 85.4% in the previous year.

The airline posted a net profit of S$2.68bn ($1.99bn) for the year ended March 31, compared with a previous record S$2.16bn a year ago, which ended three years of losses.

SIA, which is set to be a 25.1% owner of Air India following a merger of its Vistara joint venture with the Tata Group-controlled airline, said annual revenue rose 7% from a year earlier to S$19.01bn.

The company proposed a final dividend of 38 Singapore cents per share, up from 28 Singapore cents declared last year.

Singapore Airlines Group operates Singapore Airlines, its flag carrier, and Scoot, its low-cost subsidiary.

In the Gulf, long-haul carrier Emirates announced on Monday it saw record profits of $4.7bn in 2023 – its best ever results.

For the financial year ended 31 March 2024, the Emirates Group posted a record profit of AED18.7bn ($5.1bn), up 71% compared with an AED10.9bn ($3.0bn) profit for last year. The Group’s revenue was AED137.3bn (U$37.4bn), an increase of 15% over last year’s results. The Group’s cash balance was AED47.1bn ($12.8bn), the highest ever reported, up 11% from last year.

Combined Group profits for the last 2 years, at AED29.6bn, surpass pandemic losses of AED25.9bn during 2020-2022.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates airline and Group, said: “The Emirates Group has once again raised the bar to deliver a new record performance. Throughout the year, we saw high demand for air transport and travel related services around the world, and because we were able to move quickly to deliver what customers want, we achieved tremendous results. We are reaping the benefit of years of non-stop investments in our products and services, in building strong partnerships, and in the capabilities of our talented people”

Emirates’ results show that in 2023-24, the Emirates Group collectively invested AED8.8bn ($2.4bn) in new aircraft, facilities, equipment, companies, and the latest technologies to support its growth plans.

The Group’s total workforce grew by 10% to 112,406 employees, its largest size ever, as Emirates and dnata continued recruitment activity around the world to support its expanding operations and bolster its future capabilities.

Sheikh Ahmed said: “We enter our 2024-25 financial year on strong foundations for continued growth. Emirates will receive delivery of 10 new A350 aircraft in 2024-25, adding to our fleet mix and supporting the next phase of its network growth. dnata will continue to leverage synergies and scale across its business divisions to grow its footprint and capabilities. In tandem, we are investing resources to minimise our environmental impact, develop our people, look after our customers and the communities we serve.”

“The business outlook is positive, and we expect customer demand for air transport and travel to remain strong in the coming months. As always, we will keep a close watch on costs and external factors such as oil prices, currency fluctuations, and volatile environments caused by socio-political changes. Our business model has been tested before, and I am confident in our resilience and ability to respond quickly to opportunities and challenges.”

He added: “Looking further ahead, the Dubai government has announced plans to start the next phase of expansion at Al Maktoum International Airport, which will eventually be the new hub for Emirates and dnata’s operations. This AED128bn ($35bn) investment will significantly expand and enhance Dubai’s aviation and logistics infrastructure, supporting the city’s growth, and Emirates’ and dnata’s growth.

Emirates’ total passenger and cargo capacity increased by 20% to 57.7bn ATKMs in 2023-24, recovering to near pre-pandemic levels.

With many airlines announcing big aircraft orders ahead of the continued strong demand for commercial aviation, Emirates’ order book stands at 310 aircraft, after it announced orders worth $58bn combined, for 110 additional units of Boeing 777s, 787s, and Airbus A350s at the 2023 Dubai Airshow.

The airline said it saw an operating cash flow of AED37.6bn ($10.3bn) in 2023-24. Emirates carried 51.9mn passengers (up 19%) in 2023-24, with seat capacity up by 21%. The airline reports a Passenger Seat Factor of 79.9%, rising from 79.5% last year. Passenger yield declined 2% to 36.6 fils (10.0 US cents) per Revenue Passenger Kilometre (RPKM), due to a change in cabin and route mix, fares and currency.

The author is an aviation analyst. Twitter handle: @AlexInAir