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BRUSSELS — Brussels Airlines has reported a loss of €182 million in the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite taking drastic cost-control measures to combat the crisis, the airline saw first-half revenues falling to €252 million, 63% below its prior-year level. It also transported 67% fewer passengers between January and June (a total of 1,590,448 passengers compared to 4,854,603 last year), while its seat load factor dropped by 7.4 percentage points to 72.4%.
During the first six months of 2020, a total of 14,114 flights were operated, a 64% decline compared to the 39,267 flights flown during the same time last year.
Brussels Airlines temporarily suspended all scheduled flights from March 21 to June 14, 2020. Minimal flight capacities were maintained for repatriating Belgian and German citizens, to transport medical equipment to Africa and to bring medical masks from China. On June 15, the airline finally relaunched commercial flights with a limited network.
In response to the crisis, Brussels Airlines took immediate and drastic actions not only to reduce variable costs but also to reduce fixed costs. These include technical unemployment for staff, stopping all temporary contracts, supplier negotiations and stopping all projects and investments. The total operating expenses decreased by 39% to EUR 463 million, primarily due to the volume-related decline and measures in the cost of materials and services.
The turnaround program Reboot Plus, which was already planned before the coronavirus crisis hit, is now being further intensified as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. With Reboot Plus, Brussels Airlines is structurally tackling its cost structure and optimizes its network by cutting marginally profitable and unprofitable routes, resulting in a fleet reduction of 30%. The overall size of the company, and as a consequence of its workforce, will become 25% smaller.
To overcome the current crisis, the company recently reached two major milestones. First, an agreement was made with its social partners concerning the turnaround of the company, which foresaw the reduction of 1,000 jobs within the company. Thanks to alternative measures, to which the employees could subscribe, the number of forced dismissals is limited to 60. Secondly, the Belgian Government and Lufthansa agreed on a stabilization package to help Brussels Airlines overcome the unprecedented crisis and to become structurally profitable.
Since resuming flight operations on 15 June, the airline has slowly and gradually been increasing its flight operations again for both holidaymakers and business travellers, in line with market demand and taking into account the constantly changing travel restrictions.