Qantas has reported an underlying $1.28 billion loss before tax for the six months to December 2021, however, the airline remains confident of an imminent rebound.
Reporting its half-year financial results on Thursday, Qantas also reported a statutory loss before tax of $622 million.
The airline reported over $3 billion in revenue between June and December 2021, up from the $2.3 billion it saw in the same period in 2020.
The airline said it has now lost over $22 billion in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, due to border restrictions, lockdowns and international travel bans.
“Most of Australia was in lockdown for several months of the first half, so the loss we’ve announced today isn’t surprising but it is frustrating,” CEO Alan Joyce said.
“We saw a sharp rebound in travel demand when borders started opening in November and December, only to be hit by the Omicron wave and all the uncertainty that came with it.”
However, Qantas remains confident that its balance sheet will soon see a strong improvement, following its $800 million sale of 13.8 hectares of surplus land in Mascot, strong forward bookings as the Omicron surge eases, the easing of international border restrictions for tourists coming to Australia, as well as strong financial results from freight operations and the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
The airline also stated that 92 per cent of its domestic operations in the six months to December 2021 were “cash positive”.
While the Omicron outbreak stunted Qantas’ plan to return to fully domestic capacity by March, and cost the airline an estimated $650 million between December and now, the Flying Kangaroo is already again eyeing its return to pre-COVID domestic capacity by June.
International travel however will continue to remain below 50 per cent of 2019 levels.
The airline said that it expects to be operating at 68 per cent of its pre-COVID flight capacity through to March, with this jumping to 90-100 per cent in the following quarter.
International traffic remains at just 22 per cent of 2019 levels through to the end of March, with this expected to double to 44 per cent of pre-COVID capacity by the end of June.
The airline noted that leisure travel will continue to drive domestic capacity recovery, while business travel is not yet expected to recover.
The airline had previously suggested that it would reach 102 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic capacity by March 2022, however, was forced to slash capacity by over 30 per cent due to the Omicron outbreak, which decimated passenger demand and exacerbated staffing shortages due to COVID isolation rules.
Qantas had also previously stated that it would operate just 30 per cent of its pre-COVID international flight capacity between January and March 2022, however this number was later cut down to 20 per cent, also due to the Omicron outbreak.
“We know the road to recovery still has some way to go, but as Australia completes its shift to truly living with COVID, we can see things are stabilising,” he added.
“In the past month alone, I’ve travelled to Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Darwin – and the airports are getting busier and busier.
“Our forward bookings in the past few months have been encouraging and keep trending upwards.
“And the Qantas Group is in a strong position to keep serving Australia well into the future.”