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How airlines are navigating financial stability amid turbulence

In response to the challenges posed by geopolitical tensions, airlines can strategically diversify their routes and markets to reduce dependence on volatile regions.

As geopolitical tensions continue to escalate, the airline industry is feeling the heat.

The recent Israel-Gaza conflict has had a significant impact on airlines’ bottom line, with carriers like EasyJet and Wizz Air reporting substantial losses. These geopolitical risks, largely out of the airlines’ control, pose a significant challenge to their financial stability and growth.

“Geopolitical conflict can spook many industries, especially airlines,” says Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown,.

EasyJet reported a £40m hit to its bottom line in the last quarter due to paused flights and slowed bookings. Similarly, Wizz Air reported a loss of €90.20m in the last quarter due to the conflict and supply chain issues.

These losses highlight the vulnerability of airlines to geopolitical risks and the need for robust risk management strategies.

A growing area of risk

The most immediate impact of geopolitical unrest, particularly in regions like Israel, is on passenger travel. Airlines often face a significant drop in demand as travellers avoid conflict zones.

This situation is exacerbated by the necessity to cancel or reroute flights, leading to increased operational costs. Additionally, heightened security measures and insurance premiums inflate expenses, squeezing the already thin profit margins.

Cargo operations don’t escape unscathed either. Routes are disrupted, especially if they traverse conflict zones or their airspace. This disruption leads to a domino effect on global supply chains. While the demand for certain goods, such as medical supplies, may spike, overall, the industry faces a logistical nightmare, affecting revenue negatively.

Then there are the unseen revenue streams that also get buffered. In-flight magazine advertising and onboard promotions are not spared, as companies cut back on spending in uncertain markets. Brands might also distance themselves from associations with conflict-affected regions, leading to a reduction in sponsorship deals.

Prepare for takeoff

While these risks are largely out of airlines’ control, there are strategies they can employ to mitigate their impact. One approach is to diversify routes and markets to reduce dependence on volatile regions.

In order to diversify their routes and markets, airlines will need to conduct comprehensive market research and analysis to identify new, politically stable destinations with growing travel demands. A critical aspect of this strategy involves forming strategic partnerships and alliances.

By collaborating with other airlines through code-sharing and interline agreements, airlines can expand their network reach without incurring the high costs of adding new flights. Additionally, partnerships with tourism boards and local governments in stable regions can promote travel and secure favourable operational conditions.

Fleet flexibility is another cornerstone of this approach. Airlines should invest in versatile aircraft capable of serving a variety of routes, from short regional hops to long international journeys.

This flexibility can be further enhanced by leasing aircraft, especially when testing new markets, to minimize upfront costs. Alongside adjusting flight routes, reallocating resources from less profitable or higher-risk routes to those with higher demand and stability is crucial.

Another strategy is to hedge against potential fuel cost surges, a tactic EasyJet has employed. Despite the financial hit from the Israel-Gaza conflict, EasyJet has shown resilience. The airline reported a profit before tax of £455 million in the 12 months to September, a significant year-on-year improvement.

This success can be attributed to consumers prioritising holiday spending over the key summer trading period, demonstrating the strength of demand for travel.

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