SINGAPORE -- Singapore Airlines on Thursday reported a net loss of 142 million Singapore dollars ($106 million) for the October-December quarter, marking the fourth consecutive quarterly loss for the company as the coronavirus pandemic hit the global air travel industry.
The result compares to a SG$315 million net profit in the same quarter a year ago.
But the loss for the three months through December was much smaller compared with the July-September quarter's SG$2.34 billion -- the company's worst ever -- as relatively steady cargo demand and restructuring measures helped offset the impact of a sharp drop in passenger services.
The total revenue for the October-December quarter was SG$1.06 billion, down 76% from a year earlier, due to a 98% drop in the number of passengers. Cargo volume, on the other hand, dropped 36%.
"In response to the continued strong demand for pharmaceutical and e-commerce shipments, and an uptick in general cargo demand, [Singapore Airlines] added capacity by stepping up the frequency of passenger aircraft operating cargo-only flights and through the resumption of more passenger services," it said in a statement. "The utilization of the freighter fleet was also maximized to deliver more cargo capacity."
With no domestic routes to fall back on, the city-state's flagship carrier is one of the most severely hit airlines in Asia. In the July-September quarter, the airline marked the record SG$2.34 billion net loss due to huge impairment on aircraft. The company also cut about 4,000 staff last year.
Currently, 64 aircraft are used for passenger services and 31 for cargo, while 123 aircraft, including ones already impaired, have been grounded, the company said.
"The resurgence of COVID-19 infections as well as the spread of more transmissible strains of the virus continue to weigh on international air travel, as border controls and travel restrictions tighten in many countries," the company said in looking ahead.
While vaccination campaigns in Singapore and other countries are positive for the company, travel recovery remains uncertain.
Singapore's quarantine-free business "travel bubble" arrangements with Malaysia, South Korea and Germany have been suspended since early this week. A similar framework with Hong Kong, which was originally slated to begin in late November, has also been suspended.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has strengthened its financial position to weather the COVID impact and prepare for post-pandemic recovery.
Since April last year, it has raised SG$13.3 billion through the sale of new shares and borrowings, according to the company, including a $500 million loan it raised through its first U.S. dollar bond last month. As of Dec. 31, the ratio of shareholders' equity to total assets for the company stood at 43%, higher than most airlines in Asia.