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All Korean airlines report losses in Q1 amid pandemic

May 15, 2020 - 18:10 By Shin Ji-hye

All South Korean airlines -- both major and low-cost -- have posted quarterly losses as the pandemic dampened travel demand and slashed flight numbers.

The nation’s largest airline, Korean Air, has turned into a deficit in three quarters. It posted an operating loss of 56.6 billion won ($45.9 million) in the January-March period according to the firm’s regulatory filing Friday. Its sales reached 2.3 trillion won, down 22.7 percent from the same period last year.

Its passenger business saw a 29.5 percent drop compared to a year ago due to a sharp decline in demand for all routes since the outbreak. The freight business, however, saw a 3.1 percent increase due to the diversion of idle planes to cargo planes.

The second-largest airline, Asiana Airlines, posted an operating loss of 208 billion won, widening its deficit from the same period last year. Sales in the first quarter reached 1.12 trillion won, down 21.5 percent.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, the number of Asiana Airlines’ international flights was only 8 percent compared to the original plan as passenger demand plunged. Its cargo sector partially offset the operating loss thanks to demand recovery from the US-China trade dispute agreement and increased shipments of information technology-related items, the airline said.

Although the pandemic persists in the following quarter, there are also expectations of recovery.

In the passenger sector, some major European countries and the US began easing containment measures since May.

From next month, Korean Air plans to operate 32 routes of its 110 international routes, including those in the Americas and Southeast Asia. Asiana Airlines will also resume some international routes, focusing on commercial routes for business trips in the Americas, Southeast Asia and China.

Alongside the major airlines, low-cost carriers were also directly hit by the pandemic.

T’way Air recorded sales of 149.2 billion won, a 38.1 percent fall on-year, and 22.3 billion won operating loss. Jin Air recorded sales of 143.9 billion won, a 50 percent drop on-year, and operating loss of 31.3 billion won. Air Busan posted 93.1 billion won in sales, a 46.5 percent decline, and 38.5 billion won in operating loss. 

By Shin Ji-hye (