Qantas sees huge loss as preparations begin for international restart
Qantas has posted an AUS$2.6 billion (£1.2 billion) full-year loss for 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.
However, the airline said it has started financial 2022 in a “fundamentally better position” to deal with uncertainty and manage its recovery.
In total, the Australian flag-carrier said it lost AUS$16 billion (£8.4 billion) in revenue in the wake of the pandemic.
This follows a year of minimal international travel and multiple waves of domestic border restrictions, both of which continue to hit demand.
Underlying EBITDA was AUS$410 million (£216 million), in line with guidance provided in May.
Periods of open domestic borders in the second half of the year saw significant cash generation by Qantas and Jetstar, which helped the group to reduce net debt from AUS$6.4 billion (£3.4 billion) in February down to AUS$5.9 billion (£3.1 billion) by the end of June.
Throughout the year, cash flow was underpinned by continued strong performance by Qantas Loyalty and significantly higher international yields for Qantas Freight.
Qantas Group chief executive, Alan Joyce, said: “This loss shows the impact that a full year of closed international borders and more than 330 days of domestic travel restrictions had on the national carrier.
“The trading conditions have frankly been diabolical.
“It comes on top of the significant loss we reported last year and the travel restrictions we’ve seen in the past few months.
“By the end of this calendar year, it’s likely Covid-19 will cost us more than AUS$20 billion (£10.5 billion) in revenue.”
He added: “Things remain tough, especially for thousands of our people waiting to return to their jobs when borders open and hopefully stay open.
“Our focus is getting them back to work as soon as possible, which is why we were ramping up our flying and adding new destinations before the most recent lockdowns.
“Despite the uncertainty that’s still in front of us, we’re in a far better position to manage it than this time last year.
“We’re able to move quickly when borders open and close.
“We’re a leaner and more efficient organisation.”
Also today, the airline has provided more detail on preparations for restarting international flights, with plans linked to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Australia and key overseas markets.
On current projections, Australia is expected to reach the ‘Phase C’ vaccination threshold of 80 per cent in December, which would trigger the gradual reopening of international borders.
Similarly, key markets like the UK, North America and parts of Asia have high and increasing levels of vaccination.
This creates a range of potential travel options that Qantas and Jetstar are now preparing for.
From mid-December, flights would start from Australia to Covid-safe destinations, which are likely to include Singapore, the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and Canada.
Flights between Australia and New Zealand will be on sale for travel from mid-December on the assumption some or all parts of the two-way bubble will restart.
Flights to destinations that still have low vaccine rates and high levels of Covid-19 infection will now be pushed back from December until April next year, including Bali, Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City and Johannesburg.
Levels of travel demand – and therefore, capacity levels – will hinge largely on government decisions on alternative requirements to mandatory hotel isolation for fully vaccinated travellers, Qantas said.
Five A380s will return to service ahead of schedule.
These would fly between Sydney and LA from July, and between Sydney and London (via Singapore) from November next year.