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Singapore Airlines swings to profit as passenger traffic improves

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Singapore Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Changi Airport in Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Singapore Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Changi Airport in Singapore

(Adds company comment, capacity detail)

July 28 (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines (SIA) swung to a first-quarter net profit of S$370 million ($268 million), it said on Thursday, after a fourteenfold increase in passenger traffic year on year thanks to an easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The figure was a major improvement from the S$409 million loss in the first quarter a year earlier, when more than two thirds of its revenue was from cargo.

SIA's revenue tripled to S$3.9 billion in the three months to June 30 and its quarterly operating profit of S$556 million was the second highest in the company's history.

The airline has been ramping up capacity from its Singapore hub and expects to reach about 81% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of December, up from 61% in the June quarter.

"Travel demand is expected to remain robust in the near term as we head into the year-end holiday travel period, with forward sales staying buoyant for the next three months up to October 2022," SIA said in a statement.

Revenue per available seat kilometre, a measure combining airfares and the percentage of seats filled, reached a record peak at its full-service airline during the June quarter, the carrier said.

Travel demand has rebounded strongly in all regions except East Asia, where rules remain stricter than most of the world.

SIA, however, said inflationary pressures including elevated fuel prices remain a concern.

"Interest rate hikes and slowing economic growth in many countries around the world, including the SIA Group's key markets, are risk factors to passenger travel recovery and air cargo demand," the airline said.

SIA reported an operating cash surplus of S$1.48 billion during the first quarter.

Its strong performance contrasts with Hong Kong-based rival Cathay Pacific Airways, which has been hampered by strict passenger and crew quarantine rules.

Cathay expects its passenger capacity to approach up to 25% of pre-pandemic levels by year-end, up from 11% in June.

Singapore will resume operations at its main airport's fourth terminal on Sep. 13, the Changi Airport Group said last week, citing a strong rebound in passenger demand. ($1 = 1.3806 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney Editing by David Goodman)