Brussels Airlines reports EUR 182 mn loss in H1; steps up Reboot Plus

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Brussels Airlines reports a loss of EUR 182 million in the first six months of 2020, despite the drastic cost-control measures taken to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. First half revenues fell to EUR 252 million, 63 percent below the previous year’s level. (H1 2019: EUR 684 million). Brussels Airlines transported 67 percent fewer passengers between January and June and the seat load factor dropped by 7.4 percentage points to 72.4 percent.

The coronavirus, which brought aviation worldwide to a standstill within a few weeks’ time, had a dramatic impact on the financial results of Brussels Airlines in the first half year of 2020.

Brussels Airlines temporarily suspended all scheduled flights from 21 March to 14 June 2020. Minimal flight capacities were maintained for repatriating Belgian and German citizens, to transport medical equipment to Africa and to bring medical masks from China. On 15 June, the airline finally relaunched its commercial flights again, with a limited network.

As a result, the airline reported an adjusted EBIT of EUR 182 million for the first six months of the year (H1 2019: EUR -36 million). The EBIT decreased to EUR 211 million (previous year: EUR -36 million). The difference compared with the adjusted EBIT is due to write-downs of EUR 29 million on right-of-use assets consisting of two Airbus A330-200s and eight Airbus A319s already in the first quarter.

Revenues were down by 63 percent, from EUR 684 million to EUR 252 million. Brussels Airlines transported 1,590,448 passengers between January and June, compared to 4,854,603 last year. 14,114 flights were operated, a 64 percent decline compared to the 39,267 flights in the first half of 2019. The seat load factor dropped 7.4 percentage points from 79.8 percent to 72.4 percent.

In response to the crisis, Brussels Airlines took immediate and drastic actions not only to reduce variable costs but also to reduce fixed costs (technical unemployment for staff; stopping all temporary contracts; supplier negotiations; stop of all projects and investments…). The total operating expenses decreased by 39 percent to EUR 463 million, primarily due to the volume-related decline and measures in the cost of materials and services.

The turnaround programme Reboot Plus, which was already planned before the crisis hit, is now being further intensified as a result of the pandemic. With Reboot Plus, Brussels Airlines is structurally tackling its cost structure and optimizes its network by cutting marginally profitable and unprofitable routes, resulting in a fleet reduction of 30 percent. The overall size of the company, and as a consequence of its workforce, will become 25 percent smaller. At the same time, the airline focuses on structural profitability in order to enable solid growth. The carrier therefore needs to reduce its overall costs, increase efficiency and productivity. To reach its target of increased competitiveness and structural profitability, Brussels Airlines takes several measures; such as negotiations with lessors to reduce its fleet size; cost reductions through supplier negotiations; simplification and automation of processes; increase of efficiency at the level of operations and product alignment with the Lufthansa Group network airlines.

In line with its restructuring plan, and to overcome the current crisis, the company recently reached two major milestones. First, an agreement could be reached with its social partners concerning the turnaround of the company, which foresaw the reduction of 1000 jobs within the company. Thanks to alternative measures, to which the employees could subscribe, the number of forced dismissals is limited to 60. Secondly, the Belgian Government and Lufthansa agreed on a stabilization package to help Brussels Airlines overcome the unprecedented crisis and to become structurally profitable.

Since resuming flight operations on 15 June, the airline has slowly and gradually been increasing its flight operations again for both holidaymakers and business travellers, in line with market demand and taking into account the constantly changing travel restrictions. The airline has not made any forward looking statements for 2020 given the volatile and highly unpredictable situation worldwide.

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