Singapore Airlines swings to profit as demand roars back

SINGAPORE Airlines Ltd. swung to a profit in the three months through June, as the end of travel restrictions across most of the world sparked a surge in demand for flights.

The airline said in a statement Thursday that it posted net income of S$370 million (US$268 million) in the quarter, compared with a loss of S$409 million in the same period in 2021. Revenue came in at S$3.91 billion versus S$1.3 billion a year earlier.

Passenger load factor rose 34.1 percentage points to 79%, the highest since the onset of the pandemic, as traffic growth outpaced capacity expansion of 28.9%. Capacity for the group, which includes Scoot Airlines, is projected to rise to about 68% of pre-Covid levels in the second quarter and to 76% by the third. It was just 3% in April 2020.

Operating profit was $556 million in the three months through June, the second-highest quarterly figure ever, the company said. Singapore Airlines and Scoot carried 5.1 million passengers last quarter, with robust demand in all cabin classes and all regions apart from east Asia, where some border restrictions remain in place.

Singapore starting dismantling its Covid border curbs last year, initially via so-called vaccinated travel lanes with a handful of countries to allow inoculated people to enter without having to do quarantine, and then opening more widely to travelers from everywhere. While the city-state is still reporting several thousand infections a day, most virus curbs such as limits on gatherings have been lifted and authorities are preparing to vaccinate young children.

Singapore Airlines said expenditure rose by 32% from the previous quarter to S$3.4 billion, including a 71% jump in net fuel costs to S$1.3 billion as fuel prices rose 40%. That was partly offset by fuel hedging gains, it said.

Elevated fuel prices remain a concern, the airline said, while interest-rate increases and slowing economic growth in many countries are risks to the recovery in passenger travel and air cargo demand.

The company said forward sales are buoyant for the months to October, though cargo activity typically slows during the summer.

“Yields are expected to remain higher than pre-Covid levels in the near to medium term as air cargo capacity remains tight on key trade lanes to and from Asia, particularly between Europe and Asia, amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” it said. “Changes to the Covid-19 situation in China may also impact the ongoing recovery in the country’s export volumes.”

In the depths of the Covid crisis, with no domestic market in which to operate, Singapore Airlines cut pay and thousands of jobs, renegotiated aircraft contracts and deferred plane deliveries to put a lid on costs. To help it through, the company has raised S$22.4 billion in additional liquidity since April 2020.

Crew recruitment resumed in February, while new aircraft and higher usage will support the carrier’s network expansion, it said. Singapore Airlines’ operating fleet consisted of 127 passenger planes and seven freighters as of June 30, while Scoot had 55 passenger aircraft.

The airline now plans to increase services to destinations across the world, including restoring India operations to pre-Covid levels and adding more flights to Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka. It said earlier this month that more services will be added to Los Angeles and Paris in response to strong demand.

Singapore’s Changi Airport said last week it will resume operations at its Terminal 4 on Sept. 13 to meet demand after it was shuttered for more than two years due to the impact of the pandemic on travel.

In an interview with Bloomberg News in late May, Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong said Singapore Airlines is committing to a strategy of working with international partners and establishing overseas hubs. – Bloomberg