efe-epaSydney, Australia

National airline Air New Zealand's annual earnings for the financial year 2019 fell by 31 percent due to rising fuel prices and operating costs and a decline in demand, the company announced Thursday.

The company ended the 2019 financial year, which ends at the end of June, with earnings before tax of NZ$ 374 million ($239 million), much less than the $345 million it had earned the year before.

The company posted a net profit after taxation of $172 million.

Chairman Tony Carter called the results "solid" given the challenges the year had presented.

"While we are disappointed that we did not meet the expectations we first set for ourselves at the start of the financial year, the fact is we are operating in a different demand environment than we were 12 months ago," Carter said in a statement.

The company said that it is aiming to end the present fiscal year with earnings before taxation of between $244 million and NZ$ 287 million.

Air New Zealand also announced that it will enhance its long-haul flight division with the launch of a new direct flight to Seoul and another from Christchurch to Singapore while increasing the frequency of flights to Chicago and Taipei. EFE-EPA