Air France-KLM ‘turns the page’ on Covid as profit returns

Air France-KLM said Friday that it had bounced back from two years of massive losses due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, returning to profit and pledging to soon repay an emergency state loan that kept the carrier afloat.

The Franco-Dutch carrier said net profit reached 728 million euros ($777 million), nearly double the 290 million euros of 2019, before the pandemic ground the industry to a standstill.

Heavy annual losses of 7.1 billion and 3.3 billion euros the two following years forced the company into painful cost-cutting that included job cuts and getting rid of unprofitable planes.

It also required cash injections, including a 2.5 billion euro emergency loan orchestrated by the French state, which the airline says it now plans to fully repay by April.

Other Covid aid will also be repaid, freeing the company of restrictions imposed by the EU as part of the state help, and allowing it to pay dividends, increase executive pay or acquire rival carriers.

“We close out the year with a positive net income, having turned the page on Covid, and look to the future with confidence in our ability to address the challenges ahead,” chief executive Benjamin Smith said in a statement.

Sales last year hit 26.4 billion euros, nearly the pre-Covid level of 27.2 billion three years ago, even though the airline transported just 83 million passengers — 21 million fewer than before the crisis. (AFP)