The air travel industry is expected to start to recover from the COVID-19 slump this year, a top executive has said.
In a statement issued on Monday, Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways chairman Marwan Boodai said traffic should gradually start returning to 2019 levels from the second half of 2021.
The statement comes as the airline reported a net loss of $87 million for the full year 2020 on the back of a massive decline in demand for air travel.
The airline confirmed that passenger numbers declined by 71 percent year-on-year in 2020, but it said there is a positive outlook for the industry this year.
“The high demand for travel to and from Kuwait will always be there and our passengers will want to travel as soon as restrictions are lifted,” said Boodai.
He also highlighted the company’s “prudent” management of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitigating the impact
Boodai outlined the actions taken by the company to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, which included suspending its 2019 dividend payment, activating drawdown of bank facilities that were not previously tapped and renegotiating cost structures with suppliers and aircraft manufacturers.
“We were very prudent in our cash management and closed the year with enough cash coverage for the upcoming 20 months without the need to access any additional external funding,” he said.
The airline carried 696,100 passengers in 2020, down from 2.4 million in 2019. Its net loss for the year was 26.4 million dinars ($87 million).
During the fourth quarter, passenger numbers reached 90,200, while net loss amounted to 10.9 million dinars.
Air traffic worldwide has plummeted since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Last week, Dubai Airports revealed that passenger numbers at Dubai International was down 70 percent year-on-year.
Across the Middle East, overall passenger numbers fell 72.9 percent, while the worldwide figure was 65.9 percent, according to Jazeera.
(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Cleofe Maceda)
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