The Greek carrier has repaid the loans well ahead of the planned repayment schedule.
Aegean Airlines is bounding back from the pandemic with a raft of positive announcements. These include the early repayment of COVID loans, reaching a milestone in profitability, and ambitious future fleet plans.
Aegean is on the up
Athens, Greece-based Aegean Airlines has announced that it has fully repaid all its commercial bank loans drawn during the pandemic. The loans, which provided the carrier with vital liquidity during the pandemic, have been repaid an impressive three years before they were due to mature, according to the carrier.
According to the airline’s fourth quarter (Q4) and full-year 2022 financial results, it completed the repayment of the last tranche of emergency loans taken out from four large Greek banks on March 15th, 2023.
The early repayment of the loans leaves the airline with cash and cash equivalents of more than €500 million (US$539 million). At the same time, net equity has also returned to pre-pandemic levels for the Greek scheduled carrier.
A solid financial performance in 2022
The latest financial results show a strong recovery for Aegean after two years of significant losses due to COVID-19. The highlights include €1.34 billion euros ($1.44 billion) in turnover for the year and €106.8 million ($114.7 million) in after-tax profits.
Other key points to take from the 2022 results show that Aegean saw -:
- The consolidated revenue of €1.34 billion in 2022 was up 98% on 2021’s figure and 2% more than in 2019 before the pandemic.
- In 2022, the Aegean Group carried 12.5 million passengers, representing a 73% rise over 2021, of which 7.3 million passengers traveled internationally with the airline.
- 2022 load factors were 79.8% higher than in 2021 but remained below pre-pandemic levels.
- The airline’s international network contributed nearly 80% of revenues in 2022.
- The total 2022 capacity offered by the carrier in ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) reached 90% of 2019. This increased to 99% in Q4, resulting in the first profitable Q4 in company history with a €13.6 million ($14.6 million) net income in the fourth quarter of 2022.
- Net income for 2022 was €106.8 million ($109 million), reversing losses of €57.6 million ($61.8 million) in 2021. This was also 36% higher than the net income of €78.5 million ($84.3 million) in 2019.
However, taking a cautious stance on the airline’s current position, Aegean’s Chief Executive Officer, Dimitris Gerogiannis, announced that despite its strong performance, there would be no dividend payout to its shareholders for 2022.
This retention of cash within the company would allow the carrier to boost its capacity to buy out the rights of the Greek government upon a potential exercise of their warrants. The carrier also needed sufficient cash reserves to fund investment in a new maintenance center and simulator facility, which it announced plans for in December 2022.
Looking to the future
With demand for air travel in Europe remaining high through the remainder of 2023 and its fleet expansion plans, the future is looking bright for Aegean.
Speaking regarding Aegean’s 2022 financial performance and immediate outlook, Gerogiannis said,
“The first indications for 2023 are particularly encouraging, with international traffic in the first two months and ticket pre-sales trends for the upcoming summer, well above early 2022 but also versus the same period of pre-pandemic 2019.”
“Furthermore, the use of a higher number of Airbus neo aircraft will bring unit cost savings in fuel per seat, partially mitigating higher interest rates impact and high inflation across Europe that will affect the suppliers and our operating costs.”
Fleet expansion on the cards
With one eye firmly fixed on future growth, Aegean plans to take delivery of nine new A320-200Ns and A321-200NXs to bolster its fleet this year. These additional aircraft form part of an order for 46 Airbus neo aircraft to be delivered to the airline by 2026.
According to ch-aviation.com, Aegean plans to operate 76 aircraft in total by the end of 2023. The carrier currently operates a fleet of 59 aircraft, with 20 more on order. This includes twelve A320-200Ns and eight A321-200NX.
According to Aegean’s management, the advantages of the Airbus A320neo family of aircraft for the airline include lower operating costs, a better product for the passengers, more high-yield business class seats, and enhanced range.
The improved range could be critical for Aegean Airlines to further its network expansion strategy. Indeed, a more extended range could enable the carrier to add more destinations in the Middle East.
The airline recently announced a new direct service between Thessaloniki and Tbilisi, reflecting Aegean’s interest in the Middle Eastern market, where the carrier already offers flights to Amman, Beirut, Jeddah, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv.
Remaining resilient in 2023
The airline cites robust travel demand in Europe, the revenue increases mentioned in its financial report, the ongoing fleet upgrade, and the partial fuel hedging strategy combined to offset the impact of high jet fuel costs and US dollar appreciation in the last year.
According to Gerogiannis, Aegean’s results validate the effectiveness of its strategy, despite the challenging start of 2022 with the war in Ukraine and the increased jet fuel cost, proving that the airline’s investment in upgrading its fleet and services, unabated during the pandemic, is paying off in terms of improved competitiveness.
What do you think about Aegean’s 2022 performance? How do you assess the airline’s prospects for 2023? Tell us more in the comments.