Coronavirus: On top of unavoidable costs, airlines are faced with refunding sold but unused tickets

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published new analysis showing that airlines may burn through $61 billion of their cash reserves during the second quarter ending 30 June 2020, while posting a quarterly net loss of $39 billion.



This analysis is based on the impact assessment IATA released last week, under a scenario in which severe travel restrictions last for three months.

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In this scenario, full-year demand falls by 38% and full-year passenger revenues drop by $252 billion compared to 2019. The fall in demand would be the deepest in the second quarter, with a 71% drop.



The impact will be severe, driven by the following factors:

Revenues are expected to fall by 68%. This is less than the expected 71% fall in demand due to the continuation of cargo operations, albeit at reduced levels of activity

Variable costs are expected to drop sharply—by some 70% in the second quarter—largely in line with the reduction of an expected 65% cut in second quarter capacity. The price of jet fuel has also fallen sharply, although we estimate that fuel hedging will limit the benefit to a 31% decline.



Fixed and semi-fixed costs amount to nearly half an airline’s cost. We expect semi-fixed costs (including crew costs) to be reduced by a third. Airlines are cutting what they can, while trying to preserve their workforce and businesses for the future recovery.

These changes to revenues and costs result in an estimated net loss of $39 billion in the second quarter.



On top of unavoidable costs, airlines are faced with refunding sold but unused tickets as a result of massive cancellations resulting from government-imposed restrictions on travel. The second quarter liability for these is a colossal $35 billion. Cash burn will be severe. Industry analysts estimate airlines could be burning through $61 billion of their cash balances in the second quarter.

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