Air France-KLM sees signs of recovery despite huge QS loss

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (AP) — French-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM said on Friday that the “first signs of recovery are visible” in bookings amid easing pandemic travel restrictions as it reported a second-quarter net loss of nearly EUR1.5 billion.

Air France-KLM’s fleet of planes carried just over seven million passengers in the year’s second quarter, a rise of 477 per cent compared to the same quarter last year, when strict lockdowns and travel restrictions slammed the brakes on the global aviation industry.

The quarterly earnings report is the latest sign of tentative recovery in one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this week, European plane maker Airbus and its rival Boeing both posted second-quarter net profits.

Air France-KLM made a EUR7.1-billion loss in 2020 as the global pandemic grounded planes and halted travel plans worldwide, causing a 67-per-cent slump in passenger numbers.

But with many countries now easing restrictions amid vaccination campaigns, travellers are taking to the skies once more.

Grounded Air France airplanes at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France, north of Paris, France. PHOTO: AFP

“There’s a big travel appetite; where people can travel, they will travel,” said Chief Finance Officer Steven Zaat. “But, of course, we are still far away from the 2019 levels.”

The carriers said that the easing of restrictions on Americans flying to Europe “also resulted in an improved booking trend”.

However, it didn’t give any guidance on expected capacity for the fourth quarter of 2021, citing “the uncertainty of the re-opening of the North Atlantic for European citizens and uncertainty concerning travel restrictions waiving”.

Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Smith added, “Reciprocity of borders re-opening and the acceleration of the vaccination rollout worldwide, especially in the context of the rise of the Delta variant, will play a key role in maintaining this momentum.”

Revenue for the quarter was EUR2.75 billion, up by 132.5 per cent compared to 2020’s second quarter.

Air France-KLM plunged to a EUR7.1-billion loss in 2020 as the global pandemic triggered a 67-per-cent slump in passenger numbers at the group. The French and Dutch governments threw the carriers a lifeline of at least EUR9 billion to ensure they survived the unprecedented downturn.