Issue No. 757

The Covid-19 Crisis

Pushing Back: Inside This Issue

The alarm bells are ringing across the global airline industry. A coronavirus crisis that first decimated China’s travel market is now spreading elsewhere. Not only are people across the globe becoming warier of getting on airplanes. International commerce is feeling the impact as well, causing stock markets to swoon. Airlines are on edge as they await the ultimate severity of the crisis. Will it subside? Or will it get worse?

In times of great demand shocks, airlines already weak before the crisis are especially vulnerable. In this category are carriers like Virgin Australia, AirAsia X, and players in the brutally competitive Thailand market. The latest SAS results don’t instill confidence. On the other hand, IAG stands out as an industry champion. Honorable mention, meanwhile, goes to Mexico’s Volaris for a spectacular fourth quarter.

In the U.S., United lost confidence in its most recent financial guidance. Lufthansa, easyJet, and others expressed waning confidence through capacity cuts and other measures. Japan’s ANA, however, had enough confidence to order more Dreamliners.

It should be another eventful week for airlines, this one hopefully more uplifting than last. 


"It’s at a time like this when we can prove to you that IAG has the ability to adapt, to withstand, to address anything that gets thrown at us."

IAG CEO Willie Walsh


November 2019-January 2020

  • SAS: -$91m; -8%

October-December 2019 (3 months)

  • IAG: -$110m/$637m*; 12%
  • AirAsia: -$92m; 10%
  • AirAsia X: -$23m; -1%
  • Bangkok Airways: $16m; -12%
  • Nok Air: -$16m; -9%
  • Avianca: -$378m/$20m*; 9%
  • Volaris: $67m; 20%
  • VivaAerobus: $34m/$6m*; 8%

July-December 2019 (6 months)

  • Air New Zealand: $65m; 6%
  • Virgin Australia: -$61m/$10m*; 3%
  • Comair/Kulula: -$38m/-$4m*; 0%

Net result in USD; operating margin
*Net profit excluding special items (all operating figures exclude special items)

Weekly Skies

Put aside the Covid-19 shock and Heathrow expansion drama for just a moment, to properly recognize the astoundingly strong performance that British Airways achieved last year. Its 14% operating margin even bested Delta by a few fractions. And during just…

Sky Money

It has the most Asian exposure of any U.S. airline. So naturally, United is feeling some effects from the current Covid-19 scare. It said last week that near-term demand for China routes is virtually zero, while near-term demand for routes…

Landing Strip

A U.K. court has ended, for now, plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, ruling that the proposal did not take into account the government’s climate-change commitments. The court said the third runway plans, as they are now, would…


During its Q4 earnings call, Sabre outlined a $150m investment plan to achieve several key goals, including a migration away from relying heavily on transaction-based GDS fees for revenues. It instead wants to charge airlines (and hotels) to help them…


Boeing can use some good news this year. After all, its MAXs are still grounded. Its B777-Xs aren’t selling. It’s at a loss for ways to address the middle market segment that Airbus is winning with XLRs. Critical Chinese orders…

State of the Unions

Pilots from across the SkyTeam alliance met last week in Atlanta to discuss labor conditions at the group’s airlines. Collectively, the group condemned what it called the “autocratic” approach to labor relations taken by Alitalia, China Airlines, and Aeromexico. The…


How sweet. Two old enemies are burying the hatchet. American, which for years complained about Qatar Airways and its alleged subsidies, is now forming a close strategic partnership with the Gulf carrier. The two say they’ve “moved on from past…

Routes and Networks

Jet Airways is gone. So its partners are picking up some of the demand it left behind. Virgin Atlantic is one such partner. In October, it will launch new nonstops from Manchester to Delhi, to go along with the Delhi…

Feature Story

Is the world falling apart? It feels that way for airlines.