Brussels Airlines Focuses On Africa After First Quarter Loss

Brussels Airlines has published its first-quarter results for 2021. Unsurprisingly, the situation with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused the Belgian flag carrier to be hit with heavy losses. These totaled €70 million ($84 million) for Q1. However, it hasn’t been bad news across the board, as its African routes have performed relatively well.

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 Getty
A ban on non-essential international travel has hampered the carrier’s recovery. Photo: Getty Images

Brussels Airlines’ €70 million Q1 loss

Brussels Airlines recently announced that the first three months of 2021 saw it register a loss of €70 million. This figure represented a 9% decrease compared to Q1 in 2020, which consisted of two ‘normal’ months before coronavirus hit European aviation in March. Generally speaking, the first quarter tends to be the weakest across the airline industry in any case.

In terms of Brussels Airlines’ year-on-year revenue, this figure has fallen by a factor of 76% to €55 million ($66 million). This was also the percentage by which operating revenue fell year-on-year, dropping to €60 million ($72 million) in Q1 this year.

The number of flights operated in the first three months of 2021 compared to 2020 fell even more sharply. The 1,791 flights it operated in the last quarter represented an 87% decrease. Meanwhile, Brussels Airlines’ load factor has experienced a slower decline. Compared to the first quarter of 2020, this has dropped by 15.3%, to an average of 58.2%.

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-342 OO-SFD
Brussels Airlines’ average load factor has dropped below 60%. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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In more positive news, Brussels Airlines has reduced its operating costs by 59%, to just €130 million ($156 million). Of course, the lower number of flights operated has been a key factor, but the airline also highlighted the role of its cost-saving ‘Reboot Plus’ program.

African focus yields intercontinental success

The Belgian government’s ban on non-essential international travel has stifled demand, and proved a significant obstacle for Brussels Airlines. However, it has found that its African routes have performed comparatively well under the circumstances thanks to VFR and cargo demand. Regarding its shifted operational focus, the airline stated that:

“Intercontinental traffic performed better than the European operations due to the company’s focus on African routes, with a stable demand in the VFR segment (Visiting Friends & Relatives), and at the level of cargo, especially in terms of medical supply transport.”

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-200
Like many carriers, Brussels Airlines has taken advantage of increased cargo-carrying opportunities in order to generate additional revenue during the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Brussels Airlines serves the following African countries: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda.

Expecting a busier summer

Despite Q1’s heavy losses, Brussels Airlines is preparing for a summer of increased operations. After all, it expects demand to increase as the rollout of coronavirus vaccines quickens. As such, it has pre-emptively returned its flight crews to training in anticipation.

In addition to bringing its staff back up to speed, the airline is carrying out checks on its parked aircraft so that they are ready to return to the skies if demand requires. reports that 19 of its 46 aircraft are presently dormant, awaiting their return to the skies. The airline will be hoping that it’s not long before its full fleet is active again.

How do you think the rest of the year will look for Brussels Airlines? Have you ever flown on one of the Belgian flag carrier’s Africa-bound services? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.