Dubai CNN Business —  

Profits at Emirates have slumped to their lowest level in a decade as oil prices rise.

The Dubai-based carrier spent $8.4 billion on fuel during the year to the end of March, a 25% increase from the previous year. It’s the biggest fuel bill in the company’s history.

Fuel now accounts for 32% of the airline’s operating costs. Profit for the year fell by 69% to $237 million, Emirates said in a statement.

“Higher oil prices and the strengthened US dollar eroded our earnings, even as competition intensified in our key markets,” Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said.

Jet fuel prices climbed an average of 22% in the financial year after rising 15% the previous year, Emirates said. Brent crude, the global benchmark, is trading close to $70 per barrel on Thursday, while US crude futures hit $61.50 per barrel.

Oil prices have surged in 2019 in response to supply cuts by OPEC and the Trump administration’s crackdowns on two big producers: Iran and Venezuela.

Emirates passenger numbers remained steady at 58.6 million while its passenger seat factor, a measure of how successfully it’s filling its planes, dropped to 76.8% from 77.5%. The airline blamed slowing regional economies “and strong competition in many markets.”

Emirates is one of two national carriers of the United Arab Emirates. Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, has racked up losses of $4.7 billion of losses in the last three years and analysts are questioning whether the UAE still needs two global players.

Sheikh Ahmed denied speculation about a possible merger in an interview with CNN Business last week.

“There’s nothing to merge,” he said. “There’s a relationship between the airlines, but nothing called a merger.”