Air France-KLM returned to quarterly operating profit for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to easing travel restrictions. 

The Franco-Dutch airline group also expects to remain profitable in the final three months of 2021, it said on October 29, 2021 in a third quarter earnings statement. 

“The Air France-KLM group had a good summer season thanks to the reopening of many countries,” chief executive Ben Smith said in the statement. 

The group also said that after the United States announced plans in September to reopen its borders, bookings came in fast for November and Christmas holiday flights. 

Air France-KLM said it expected earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to be positive in the fourth quarter, as well as “slightly positive” for 2021 as a whole. 

For the third quarter, Air France-KLM reported EBITDA of €796 million ($929 million), compared to a loss of €442 million ($516 million) a year ago.

Like other airlines, cargo is performing strongly for Air France-KLM, with revenues up 23% in the quarter. The strong performance is expected to continue, with the airline citing booming global trade and bottlenecks in rival sea freight capacity. 

Air France-KLM said it would increase passenger capacity to between 70 and 75% of 2019 levels in the fourth quarter. But due to uncertainty over when much of Asia will ease travel restrictions, Air France-KLM is not providing capacity plans for 2022.  

“The COVID-19 crisis is not yet over. Important continents such as Asia remain mainly closed and business travel is slowly recovering,” Smith cautioned.  

The uncertainty over travel to Asia is hurting rival Finnair in particular, which has a focus on connecting Asia and Europe via Finland. 

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Finnair expects Asia markets will mostly stay closed until 2022, hurting its financial results