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Thu, 4 February 2021

Strong Cargo, Reduced Costs Result in Operating Profit for Korean Air

(04 Feb 2021) Korean Air today reported KRW 7.405 trillion (USD 6.806 billion) in sales and KRW 238.3 billion (USD 219 million) in operating profit for FY2020.

The decline in passenger demand due to COVID19 continued throughout the year, causing gross sales to fall 40% and passenger sales to drop 74% year-on-year.

Increasing the operation rate of freighters and utilizing idle passenger planes resulted in an increase in cargo sales of 66% on 2019.

Operating profit was achieved because of the airlines strong cargo business and company-wide efforts to cut costs. Meanwhile, reduced passenger capacity and falling oil prices lowered fuel consumption and jet fuel costs. Related costs such as facility fees were also reduced due to decreased passenger operations. Labor costs declined slightly as employees took rotational leave. Accordingly, total operating expense was reduced by 40% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Korean Air Airbus A220-300 (formerly the Bombardier CS300) preparing to taxi to the runway for takeoff while an Airbus A330 in the background takes to the sky. Picture taken at Gimpo International Airport on 17 October 2018 by Steven Howard of Click to enlarge.

The airline recorded a net loss of KRW 228.1 billion (USD 209.7 million) due to net interest expense, but the loss was largely reduced from KRW 568.7 billion in net loss of 2019.

According to IATA, international passenger demand (RPK) in 2020 decreased by 75.6% compared to 2019, international cargo demand (CTK) dropped by 11.8%. Consequently, most airlines across the world have experienced a deterioration in profits.

To address the challenges caused by the pandemic, all Korean Air employees have been taking voluntary rotational leave since April 2020.

Korean Airs staff is committed to overcoming the crisis with one heart, said Keehong Woo, Korean Airs president. It was not a miracle that 2020 was a profitable year. It was only possible thanks to our employees hard work and sacrifices.

Korean Airs remarkable performance was also based on its achievement in the cargo business. Despite a sharp drop in air cargo capacity, Korean Air fully utilized its 23 freighters, increasing its operation rate by 25% compared to the year before.

"Almost 24% of the global air cargo capacity disappeared last year when airlines suspended most international flights because of COVID19. However, Korean Air boosted our cargo operations by operating extra/charter freighters to meet the demands of medical supplies such as COVID19 test kits and masks. We also increased cargo capacity by converting passenger jets into freighters. Weve done well to keep our cargo network strong and active," President Woo added.

The airlines strategy to increase cargo capacity by using passenger aircraft resulted in the airline transporting cargo on more than 4,500 flights. Strong air cargo rates, due to reduced global air freight capacity compared to demand, also contributed to the airlines positive performance.

In addition to enhanced cargo operations, Korean Air has expanded its capital and improved its financial structure through various self-rescue efforts such as selling non-core assets.

Last year, Korean Air successfully increased KRW 1.1 trillion worth of capital by issuing new shares and completed the sale of its inflight catering and duty-free business unit at KRW 981.7 billion. Currently, the airline is finalizing the sale of KAL Limousine and Wangsan Leisure Development Co. Ltd.

Also, Korean Air is seeking to secure more liquidity by selling its shares in Hanjin International Corp. that operates the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, and is discussing the sale of the companys property in downtown Seoul with the Seoul metropolitan government.

Korean Air will continue its self-rescue efforts to improve its financial stability in 2021. In particular, the airline will increase KRW 3.3 trillion worth of capital by issuing new shares this March to secure liquidity and improve its financial structure while also resolving financing issues to acquire Asiana. Korean Air also will carry out a PMI (Post Merger Integration) to integrate Asiana Airlines as planned. Employees voluntary leave also will be continued this year.

As the air cargo market recovers, Korean Air plans to strengthen its cargo business strategies by flexibly adjusting supply and proactively responding to changes in the market. With a task force of specialists in cargo sales and specialized cargo transport, Korean Air has prepared for vaccine transportation thats expected to grow sharply starting the second half of the year when vaccines become widely available.

In contrast to the positive air cargo market, the passenger business is expected to recover slowly. Accordingly, Korean Air plans to maintain the current passenger seat capacity until the end of this year when the market indicates meaningful recovery with the COVID-19 vaccine.

See latest Travel Industry News, Video Interviews, Podcasts and other news regarding: COVID19, COVID19, Korean Air.

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