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Covid-19 delivers another brutal quarter for airlines

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Bangkok Airways and other airlines reported big losses in the first quarter of 2021. (via Alexandr Podvalny for Pexels)

As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, airlines experienced another terrible quarter, with less passengers and less revenue year-on-year. The president of Bangkok Airways reported dismal numbers saying that the airline is adjusting its flight plans to try to match the depressed market.

Only 151,900 travellers flew on Bangkok Airways in the first quarter of 2021, an 88.5% drop over last year’s figures. Flights were on average 58.8% full, even after the airline cut 85.6% of their flights compared to the first quarter of last year.

The beginning of 2020 had brought a loss for the airline of 339 million baht, but the first quarter of 2021 more than doubled that loss to 757 million baht. Revenue was down 78.8% compared to last year, with Bangkok Airways pulling in only 1.36 billion baht. But the airline used this decrease in flights to push ahead with a construction project to develop the U-Tapao airport in Pattaya and to build the Eastern City Airport after an international architectural design contest.

Bangkok Airways wasn’t alone in their struggle, with many airlines having a bad first quarter. Thai AirAsia reported similar losses, with a nearly identical 1.35 billion baht in revenue, which is 86% lower than the first quarter of last year. They reduced their fleet to just 61 planes, with a 78% fall in total passengers. Nearly a million people flew with Thai AirAsia, but even with reduced flights they only had a 66% average passenger load on the planes.

Their losses were also more than double, nearly triple, last year’s first quarter, increasing from 671 million baht to 1.87 billion baht. Thai AirAsia has planned a restructuring process to open up 6.825 billion baht to keep the airline solvent until the pandemic ends. They’re planning an IPO to raise 3.15 billion baht of that money on the Stock Exchange of Thailand

The domestic carriers had been seeing an uptick in passengers toward the end of the quarter, with March bringing a 70% load factor as people were hopeful for vaccination rollout, Covid-19 infection subsiding, and tourism stimulus plans encouraging people to travel. But April brought the third wave of Covid-19, exponentially more infections and spread that covered the entire country. As a result, all progress was lost and the airlines expect that the second quarter of 2021 won’t be much better.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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