The coronavirus continues to impact the financial results of the entire aviation industry dramatically and, as a consequence, also Brussels Airlines. A non-essential travel ban in the first quarter of the year, followed by continuous strict travel restrictions, severely impacted passenger numbers. The Belgian airline transported 57% fewer passengers in the first half-year compared to the same period last year.
As a result, revenue at Brussels Airlines fell year-on-year by 45% to 138 million euros in the first semester of 2021 (H1 2020: 252 million euros). The operating income of 147 million euros was 48% lower than the year before (lH1 2020: 281 million euros). The COVID-19 crisis forced Brussels Airlines – after a good start into the year – to suspend its operation almost entirely for the period between mid-March and mid-June 2020. Since then, the production level is significantly lower and not yet back on pre-crisis levels.
In the first half-year of 2021, operating expenses fell by 37% to 290 million euros, primarily due to the volume-related decline in the cost of materials and services (H1 2020: 463 million euros). Brussels Airlines has reduced expenses significantly thanks to its turnaround program, Reboot Plus, of which the restructuring phase is almost completed. However, remaining fixed costs continue to put pressure on the operating expenses.
Accordingly, the airline reports an EBIT of -143 million euros and an adjusted EBIT of -143 million euros for the first six months of this year. Compared to the previous year, the EBIT decreased from -211 million euros (H1 2020) and the adjusted EBIT from -182 million euros (H1 2020). Last year’s EBIT figure was impacted by a reduction of 29 million euros due to impairment losses on aircraft and rights-of-use for aircraft.
Due to the non-essential travel ban and the strict and continuously changing travel restrictions, the number of operated flights and passenger figures decreased even further. Compared to the first semester of 2020, which included a temporary suspension of all flights from March 21 to June 14, 2020, Brussels Airlines operated 55% fewer flights (6,295 flights compared to 14,114). The number of passengers transported dropped from 1,590,448 in the first semester of 2020 to 676,372 for the first half of 2021. As to the seat load factor, the latter went down from 72.4% to 60.7% in the first six months of 2021.
Brussels Airlines’ turnaround program Reboot Plus consists of two phases: the restructuring and transformation phases. As the restructuring phase, which aims to reduce the fleet size by 30% and the workforce by 25%, is almost completed, Brussels Airlines is looking forward to investing in a sustainable and structurally profitable future. In that future, the reduction of the airline’s ecological footprint has a prominent place. On June 29, the Lufthansa Group Executive Board and the Board of Directors of SN Airholding have authorized the allocation of three Airbus A320neo aircraft to Brussels Airlines, which will leave the Airbus factory by summer 2023. These state-of-the-art aircraft, with significantly lower CO2 and noise emissions, will replace three older A319 aircraft. Modernizing the fleet is crucial to reaching the ambitious target of reducing the CO2 footprint by 50% by 2030 (compared to 2019 levels).
Due to the still volatile and highly unpredictable situation worldwide caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it is not possible to make forecasts for 2021 as a whole.