Paris (AFP)

Air France-KLM lost another 1.48 billion euros in the second quarter of 2021, still overwhelmed by the Covid-19, but has observed "first signs of the recovery" since June and expects to regain operational profitability in the third quarter.

This net loss, of the same amount as that of the first quarter, nevertheless marks a clear improvement compared to that of the second quarter of 2020, when the consequences of the health crisis had plunged the group into the red of 2.6 billion euros.

The loss in the second quarter of 2021, which brings Air France-KLM's cumulative losses since the start of the pandemic to more than 10 billion euros, was also driven by exceptional items, including a change in pension plan at KLM, the company said in a press release on Friday.

At the same time, the operating loss was reduced by more than half over the period, although it still reached 752 million euros.

The second quarter of 2020 was particularly dark for the group, affected like the entire aviation sector by the border closures and strict confinements decided in the face of the first epidemic wave.

Even if between April and June 2021, the supply of seats of the companies of the group (Air France, KLM and the "low cost" Transavia) reached only 48% of that of the same period of 2019, the number of passengers jumped 477% year on year to 7 million.

Turnover also increased strongly (+ 133% to 2.75 billion euros).

But it is still less than half of the same period of 2019, when it exceeded 7 billion.

Beyond base effects, "in the second quarter we saw early signs of recovery," said CFO Steven Zaat.

The group has found a positive free cash flow for the first time since the start of the crisis "thanks to very good ticket sales", he detailed during a press conference call.

With the lifting of certain movement restrictions, the adoption of the European health certificate and "strong demand" towards holiday destinations, particularly in Southern Europe, Air France-KLM increased its seat offer in July to more than 60% from the same period of 2019.

As a result, the group has improved its traffic assumptions for the third quarter, to between 60 and 70% of the levels of two years ago (compared to 55-65% previously), and believes that both KLM and Air France will return to a higher level. operational profitability over this period, again for the first time since the start of the health crisis.

The group, on the other hand, refrained from communicating its ambitions for the fourth quarter, "because of the uncertainty over the reopening of the North Atlantic for European citizens and the uncertainty concerning the lifting of travel restrictions".

© 2021 AFP