Korean Air Reports Fourth Quarter Of Profit In A Row Despite COVID

The impacts of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have thrust the airline industry as a whole into a challenging and unprecedented crisis. Despite this, some carriers have achieved comparatively strong financial performances since the onset of COVID-19. One of these is Korean Air, which recently announced its fourth consecutive quarter of profit.

Korean Air A380
Korean Air’s flexible approach has helped its financial position. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Korean Air’s strong first quarter

Seoul-based SkyTeam member Korean Air announced today that it had registered an overall operating profit in the first quarter of 2021. Amid the present challenges facing the airline industry, this would have been an impressive achievement in itself.

However, the last quarter, in fact, represents the fourth consecutive three-month spell in which the South Korean flag carrier has been a profitable enterprise. It cited “continuous efforts to boost cargo operations and reduce costs” as key factors in its success.

Overall, its operating profit in the last quarter totaled 124.5 billion South Korean Won (KRW) / $110 million. This represents a surplus compared to Q1 in 2020 when it registered an operating loss of 65.7 billion KRW ($58 million). This is despite sales revenue having fallen 24% vs 2020, from 2,309.8 billion KRW ($2.038 billion) to 1,749.8 million KRW ($1.544 billion).

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Korean Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner HL7206
Korean Air has achieved four consecutive profitable quarters. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The airline has also succeeded in reducing its net income loss compared to Q1 of 2020. Indeed, this time around, its net income was at a comparatively healthy -28.8 billion KRW (-$25 million). Meanwhile, Q1 of 2020 saw it lose 692 billion KRW ($610 million) net income.

Helped by cargo growth

As has been there case with many airlines, Korean Air took an adaptable approach to the pandemic situation by increasing its focus on cargo. This resulted in its Q1 cargo sales in 2021 doubling compared to last year. These amounted to an impressive 1.353 trillion KRW ($1.2 billion). Regarding its success in the airfreight sector, the airline stated:

Korean Air maximized cargo operations by fully utilizing its 23 freighters, operating cargo-only passenger flights, and converting passenger jets into freighters. Also, as vaccination progresses, expectations on global economic recovery grow, which helps increase air cargo demand.”

Korean Air Cargo Boeing 777F Getty
An increased focus on cargo operations has helped Korean Air to remain profitable. Photo: Getty Images

An exciting future for South Korean aviation

This is not the first instance in which Korean Air has excelled financially despite the pandemic. Indeed, Simple Flying reported in February that the airline had also made an operating profit for 2020 as a whole. This came shortly after the carrier announced a network recovery program that saw it reinstate most of its North American services.

Overall, Korean Air’s economic successes amid the health crisis have left it in a strong position to grow in the future. One way in which it is set to do this is through a merger with Asiana Airlines. It expects to complete this process in 2024.

As well as giving South Korea a single, integrated airline, this will also create the world’s second-largest Airbus A380 fleet. On the whole, Korean Air’s economic prosperity and its merger with Asiana have left the country’s aviation future looking rather bright indeed.

What do you make of Korean Air’s comparatively strong financial performance amid the ongoing crisis? Have you ever flown with the Seoul-based airline? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.