MIAMI – Yesterday, the Air-France KLM Group published its Q3 financial results. They were unexpectedly good, as the group made an operating profit.

The US announcement of its reopening to vaccinated European travelers makes the group expect Q4 results to be very good as well. “Continuing recovery in capacity generates strong revenue growth and positive operating results for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 crisis”

The Air France-KLM Group was created in 2003, merging two major European Airlines: Air France (AF), and KLM (KL). The airlines kept their separate brands and logos. However, they are part of the same group and have very strong links. The third airline in the Air France-KLM group is Transavia Netherland (HV), and its French counterpart, Transavia France (TO). These airlines are low-cost and operate flights to leisure destinations.

The Boeing 737 is the only KLM medium-haul aircraft. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Recovery in Network, Passenger Numbers

The group published its financial results in this press release, giving precise information about the capacity and passenger numbers of the Group. AF-KLM carried 16.94 million passengers in this third quarter. It is 96,6% higher than in 2020 and represented 58% of the same period in 2019. “Third quarter 2021, the capacity in Available Seat Kilometers in the Third quarter was 63.7% higher than last year, however at 66% of 2019 Third quarter levels.”

The Group says that North America “has shown strong increase compared to June driven by the U.S point of sales. AF-KLM also observes good performance on Mexican routes and in Canada after the lifting of border restrictions.”, “On the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean, the Group posted a good performance despite sanitary restrictions on the French Antilles affecting especially September results.”

The Group was quite optimistic about its European routes. There were “encouraging short and medium-haul results in the peak summer driven by over-performing local leisure flows with the same yield as 2019”. AF-KLM adapted its network to the demand. Indeed, “capacity redeployment to leisure areas and seasonal route openings enabled to leverage all leisure traffic opportunities.”

However, South America showed “mixed results with a start of a recovery driven by Andean and Central Americas”. In Asia, “capacity and traffic were still weak for both airlines due to the closure of almost all Asian countries.”

The Group also revealed its fleet movements for Q3. “Air France added one Airbus 350-900 to the fleet and received its first Airbus A220-300, KLM phased out two B737-700 and HOP decreased its aircraft in operation with two Canadair Jet 1000 and one Canadair Jet 700.”

Transavia is performing very well during this third quarter. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

Recovery in the Financial Results

The finances were good for the Group this Quarter. Its EBITDA was positive, with “€796m, an increase of €1.2m compared to last year”. The operating result was also positive, with €132m. The net income was slightly negative, at -€192m. However, it was “up €1,4m compared to last year”. The Group net debt is now “at €8.1bn, down by €2.9bn compared to end of 2020 thanks to the first set of capital strengthening measures”

AF had a negative operating result, with -€45m. Though, it is a very important increase of €762m compared to last year. KL had a positive result of €168m, with an operating margin of almost 9%. These results show that “both airlines are performing significantly better than last year.”

Transavia, the low-cost airline of the Group, performed very well during this third quarter. Indeed, the airline had “an operational result of €105m.” This is because “The third quarter of 2021 showed a strong recovery in demand for leisure traffic in Europe, both from the Netherlands as well as France.”

Passenger results were good, with slightly more than 78% of the load factor. “Compared to last year, the capacity increased by 56.3% while traffic increased by 90.2% and the number of passengers more than doubled at an increase of 110.8%.” The low-cost airline is very important in the group strategy, and To is expanding very rapidly to compete with its European competitors.

The Boeing 787 is very important for KLM’s long-haul fleet renewal. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways

CEO Ben Smith Comments on the Results

Group CEO Mr. Benjamin Smith said, “The Air France-KLM group had a good summer season thanks to the reopening of many countries. I would like to thank our employees who have enabled our customers to return to the skies in the best possible sanitary conditions. For the first time since the beginning of this Covid-19 crisis, the Q3 results show a positive operating result which encourages us to continue our efforts.”

However, he also declared that “The Covid-19 crisis is not yet over. Important continents such as Asia remain mainly closed and business travel is slowly recovering. This is why we must remain very agile and continue our transformation with the objective of improving both our economic and environmental performance.”

Air France’s A220 will replace the older A318 and A319 medium-haul aircraft. Photo: Air France

Positive Expectations for Q4

The Group can now have an optimistic look at the future. With “the announcement in September of the reopening of the United States for European citizens, bookings came quickly for November and even more for the Christmas holiday. In this context, the Group expects capacity [for] passenger activity at an index in the range of 70% to 75% in the fourth quarter 2021 compared to 2019.”

Financially, “As of September 30, 2021, the Group has €10.4bn of liquidity and credit lines at disposal. This level can be considered sufficient, given the continuation of recovery throughout the summer”. Moreover, “EBITDA is expected to be positive in the Fourth quarter 2021 and slightly positive in Full Year 2021”.

This shows how the Group is recovering from the COVID crisis. And also how Transavia becomes a key airline for the Group’s medium-haul expansion strategy. The renewal of the fleet is very important for the Group in order to achieve its low-emissions goals. In Q3, Airbus A350 and A220 aircrafts entered the fleet.

Air France’s A220 will achieve its first commercial flight from Paris (CDG) to Berlin (BER) on Sunday. AF-KLM is studying its opportunities for a very big order of 160 aircraft in the coming months, in order to renew KL, HV, and TO medium-haul fleet.

The A350 is the backbone of Air France’s long-haul fleet renewal. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways