Lufthansa returns to profit as air travel resumes

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Lufthansa beat analysts’ expectations for a quarterly profit for the first time since the pandemic, becoming the second major European airline to benefit from a travel recovery as international borders reopen.

The German airline, which is reducing its business and laying off more than 30,000 employees, made a profit of 17 million euros before interest and taxes for the three months to the end of September. In the previous quarter, Lufthansa booked a loss of more than 950 million euros.

Last week, Air France-KLM said it had operating income of 132 million euros for the quarter, citing strong customer demand.

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The Frankfurt-based carrier said that although 19.6 million passengers it carried in the last quarter represented 46 percent of pre-crisis levels for 2019, new bookings rose to 80 percent of pre-pandemic standards.

“We’re back in the black, now it’s all about staying on the path of successful change,” said CEO Carsten Spohr.

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The airline said the opening of US borders to travelers from Europe – planned for November 8 – has generated “a boom in demand in recent weeks”. “Since the opening was announced, the number of weekly bookings has increased by 51 percent compared to previous weeks.”

However, it reiterated that it still expects overall to only operate 70 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2022.

Last month, Lufthansa completed a capital increase of more than 2.1 billion euros, with which it intends to fully repay the bailout received from Berlin in the summer of 2020.

The rescue package means the government has taken a 16 per cent stake in the company, which Lufthansa management is keen to reduce.

The company, which has a higher cost base than many of its competitors, has made significant progress in its restructuring efforts.

Having employed nearly 138,000 people at the start of the pandemic, Lufthansa said the total number of employees has now fallen to 107,000, as the response to voluntary redundancy plans “significantly exceeded original expectations”. However, they are still in negotiations with German pilots.

In addition to the surge in transatlantic travel, the boom in air freight helped Lufthansa’s cargo business post a record EBIT of €301 million for the quarter.

The division continued to benefit from higher demand caused in part by limited cargo capacity in passenger aircraft bellies. The amount of goods transported through German airports is increasing at a double-digit rate every month, according to the airport association ADV.

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