Issue No. 796

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Pushing Back: Inside This Issue

The end of the year is near. Thank heavens for that.

Airlines will remember 2020 as their nightmare year, ruined by a global pandemic. Not even past encounters with war, terrorism, recession, or fuel shocks ever caused this much damage. IATA sees airlines losing $118b this year, ending a 10-year industry profit streak. For perspective, $118b is more than half of the $224b airlines earned during the streak.

The agony isn’t over yet. Covid continues to spread, and air travel volumes remain deeply depressed. Relief should come with vaccinations, now just getting started. Testing passengers for the virus might help revive some demand as well. But 2021 will likely be another year of airline industry red ink. Normality still seems far away.


“I think when you look at the booking trends right now, when you look at latest developments with testing and vaccination, we will return into a profitable growth soon with a stronger position, less capital-intensive and more digital company.”

TUI CEO Frederich Joussen


July-September (3 Months)

  • TAP Air Portugal: -$138m/-$243m*; -94%
  • Frontier: -$52m/-$143m*; -70%
  • Sun Country: $3m/-$30m*; -31%
  • Mesa: $11m/-$29m*; -16%

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

Editor's Note

This week's issue is the last of the year. The next issue of Airline Weekly will be dated Jan. 11, 2021. We wish everyone good health and cheer as this most consequential of years in the commercial aviation industry — and the world — draws to a close. Happy holidays.

But before we go, we have some news. Jay Shabat, who co-founded Airline Weekly in 2004, is leaving the publication to launch a new venture, focused on the U.S. economy. This is his 796th and final issue. We're excited to add respected airline reporter Edward Russell to the team.

On a personal note, this is a bittersweet moment for me. I'm thrilled to welcome Edward to the team, but I'm truly sad to see Jay go. We won't let him go far — expect his expertise on the Airline Weekly Lounge podcast occasionally in the new year. I want to thank Jay for conceiving and building an exceptional publication, and it is my privilege to carry on his work. 
-- Madhu Unnikrishnan

Weekly Skies

For TAP Air Portugal, 2015 seemed like a turning point. It was the year that Portugal’s government privatized the airline, which badly needed capital and investment. The buyer was a consortium led by airline entrepreneur David Neeleman, the man behind…


The MAX is back. The Brazilian airline Gol, one of Boeing’s most prized narrowbody customers, put the plane back into service last week, starting with a flight from São Paulo Guarulhos to Porto Alegre. Because of the deeply depressed demand…

Routes and Networks

Of all major U.S. airlines, Hawaiian Airlines has had the toughest 2020 of all. That’s because its home state closed its borders to tourists, which brought the airline’s demand down to near zero for much of the year. But with…

Covid Crisis 2020

United now expects Q4 daily cash burn to rise to $24m to 26m, up from the $15m to $20m it had previously forecast, due to a "deceleration in forward bookings. United also expects to spend $10m per day on debt…

Feature Story

It began with hope. Demand was generally strong. Fuel was relatively cheap. The skies were calm. Not trouble free, of course. It’s the airline industry, after all. But the early days of 2020 seemed promising enough for most of the…

Around the World

A look at the world’s airlines, including end-of-week equity prices.