Issue No. 769

America’s Airlines Start to Recover… A Little Bit

Pushing Back: Inside This Issue

By its own lofty standards, 2019 was not a good year for Ryanair. Needless to say, 2020 will be worse. But with an important caveat: This year’s distress contains unmistakable seeds of opportunity.

Ryanair will survive the crisis, no doubt about that. And it expects to be right there as Europe’s shorthaul airlines start adding back flights in the next few weeks, assuming governments proceed with the lifting of travel restrictions. All the while, the Irish LCC is positioning itself to revive muscular margins by negotiating crisis-time deals with airports, with unions, and with Boeing.  

U.S. airlines too, are prepping to reintroduce more flights as demand slowly creeps back. All understand the need to shrink, and the misfortunes and inefficiencies shrinking entails. But they’re just as keen as Ryanair on finding diamonds of opportunity amid the burning wreckage.   

Speaking of burning wreckage, the Thai Airways balance sheet will finally get a proper chance to heal, if through the painful process of bankruptcy. Not so for a small Ecuadoran carrier called TAME, whose bankruptcy will lead to liquidation. Virgin Australia’s bankruptcy is headed for a swift conclusion — four reputable and well-capitalized investment firms want to buy it. Latam could be next in line at the bankruptcy court. Lufthansa will avoid bankruptcy by finalizing a government rescue plan. But it’s a plan with a heavy price — Berlin could own a full quarter of the airline.

Elsewhere, easyJet defeated a shareholder rebellion, while Taiwan’s two largest airlines reported first quarter losses but big increases in cargo revenue. Tragically, Pakistan’s national airline suffered a fatal plane crash. Almost 100 people lost their lives.


"I think you’re going to see enormous cost opportunities here for the next four or five years, and Ryanair well-poised to take advantage of them."

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary

Skift Airline Weekly Livestream

Join Airline Weekly Editor Madhu Unnikrishnan and special guest Brett Snyder, better known as "The Cranky Flier," to hear about the airline industry recovery, social distancing on aircraft, and when this recovery might happen. Tune in Tues., May 26 at 11:30 a.m. Eastern for a livestream broadcast. (It's Tuesday this week due to the Memorial Day holiday in th U.S. on Monday.) Can't make it? We'll post a replay after the event every week at Registration is free for subscribers here, at


January-March 2020 (3 Months)

  • Ryanair: -$657m/-$265m*; -21%
  • China Airlines: -$127m; -9%
  • EVA Air: -$36m; -1%
  • Bangkok Airways: -$11m; 4%

October-December 2019 (3 Months)

  • Philippine Airlines: -$34m; 6%

*Net result in USD/*Net result excluding special items/ Operating margin

Weekly Skies

Long before anyone heard of Covid-19, Ryanair was facing uncharacteristically severe earnings pressure. To be clear, its 13% operating margin last year was nothing to be embarrassed about. But far from repeating its 2018 distinction as world’s most profitable airline,…


Gonzalo Pérez Corral, general manager of JetSmart Argentina, spoke to Clarín about some of the airline’s local frustrations. One is the Argentine airport company’s plan to close El Palomar airport, a low-cost facility near Buenos Aires. Another is the regulatory…


Air Lease Corp.’s John Pleuger told CNBC that he does see some industry green shoots, especially in Asia. In China and Korea specifically, domestic load factors are now between 60% and 65%, he said. He compares the airline industry to…

State of the Unions

The U.S. Travel Association reported grave jobs data for the travel sector. It estimates that the industry’s unemployment rate is (ugh) 51%. The unemployment rate for the U.S. as a whole is estimated to be 25%, though keep in mind…

Landing Strip

Copenhagen Airport told a distressingly familiar tale: A decent performance in January and February, followed by almost nothing from March to the present. The forecast is so grim that the airport is not offering any guidance for the rest of…


Emirates with some fanfare last month trialed a rapid-response Covid test in Dubai for some flights to Tunisia. The test required a pinprick of blood and returned results in 10 minutes. But further analysis found the test to be only…

Routes and Networks

Here’s a rare bit of bright news in the category of network expansion. Volotea announced it is adding 40 routes this summer, including dozens of city pairs involving France, Italy, Spain, and Greece. It’s more specifically launching 15 routes in…

Covid Crisis 2020

IATA released recommendations for the safe resumption of air travel, calling on governments to shoulder much of the responsibility for health screening and passenger biosecurity. Airlines should be responsible for the safe transportation of passengers, it says. But it’s imperative…

Feature Story

America’s economy is starting to reopen again — a little bit. And with this reopening, America’s airlines are starting to attract customers again — a little bit.