No summer for Europe's big 5 airline groups. Ryanair best positioned

Premium Analysis

In 3Q2019 – when summer could still be relied upon to generate the bulk of airline profits – IAG, Lufthansa Group, Air France-KLM, Ryanair and easyJet made an aggregate operating profit of EUR5.2 billion. This was 65% of their collective operating profit for the year.

Summer 2020 was very different. Travel restrictions and quarantine rules meant an aggregate operating loss of EUR3.9 billion in 3Q2020. This followed the early summer loss of EUR5.1 billion for 2Q2020.

Remarkably, Ryanair managed a small operating profit in the peak summer quarter, although not enough to offset its 2Q loss. It also has the strongest liquidity position among the five, as a percentage of last year's revenue.

In a normal year, summer profits buffer Europe's airlines against the (usually small) operating losses of the winter quarters.

This is far from a normal year. Ryanair, the best positioned of the five to emerge a winner from the crisis, expects a bigger loss in the winter. Renewed lockdowns, plummeting demand and collapsing load factors seem likely to lead to big winter losses for all of Europe's five leading airline groups.

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