SpiceJet Posts $108 Million Loss Due To MAX Grounding And COVID

SpiceJet saw a $108 million loss in the quarter ending March 31. The airline has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, relying heavily on its cargo operations. SpiceJet also announced its results for the fiscal year 2019, seeing a larger loss of $125 million for the entire year. The 737 MAX grounding has also contributed to the year’s losses, with SpiceJet now expecting the type not to fly again until early 2021.

SpiceJet 737
SpiceJet has seen a loss of $108 million in the first quarter of 2020. Photo: Getty Images

First-quarter woes

As with most airlines, SpiceJet saw a turbulent first quarter. Income actually rose 16% during this time, compared to the last year, but high costs quickly overtook the increase in incomes. The airline saw the effects of COVID-19 starting taking hold in mid-February, with demand dropping from there and the government banning all flights at the end of March.

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SpiceJet 737
SpiceJet saw an increase in total revenue during the quarter, but high costs and COVID-19 hurt the bottom line. Photo: Jonathan Payne via Flickr

In total, the airline saw a loss of $108 million (₹807 crores) during this quarter, with income reaching $408.8 million (₹3057 crores). The domestic flight ban only came into effect on March 24, which means the airline could see more losses next quarter due to two months of groundings.

Difficult 2019

While the first quarter was expected to be tough on all airlines, SpiceJet also saw a difficult 2019 fiscal year (April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020). This tough year has been due to the 737 MAX’s grounding in large part. The lack of the 737 MAX in March last year saw SpiceJet opt to induct former Jet Airways 737 and wet lease A320s to maintain its schedule.

SpiceJet 737 MAX
SpiceJet has cited the grounding of the 737 MAX as a primary reason for its 2019 losses. Photo: Jonathan Payne via Flickr

The airline saw an overall loss of $125 million (₹935 crores) for the financial year, led by the losses of this quarter. However, the overall loss for the year stands out as other airlines saw strong 2019 results, even factoring in the first quarter.

Overall the year was a mixed bag for SpiceJet. While it did gain heavily from the fall of Jet Airways, high costs and the 737 MAX grounding pushed the airline into the red.

COVID-19 fears and long-haul

SpiceJet’s deep losses for the first quarter could mean that the airline is bracing for worse results. India’s lockdown meant that airlines had no passenger flights in April and most of May, reducing revenue. SpiceJet has, however, taken advantage of its fleet of 737 freighters to increase cargo operations during this time.

With COVID-19 continuing to spread it in India and passenger numbers slowing down, airlines are expected to have a tumultuous year. SpiceJet’s next quarter could look even worse than this one, as it looks to cut costs.

SpiceJet 737 Freighter
SpiceJet’s freighter fleet helped it increase cargo operations during India’s flight ban. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons

In recent weeks, SpiceJet has announced plans to go long-haul, flying to Europe and the US. Its first flights will be Amsterdam to Bangalore, using a leased Hi Fly A330neo. The airline also has permission to fly to the US and UK, which it could expand into soon.