The key to some airlines surviving the coronavirus crisis is other airlines going bust

in #hive-1679226 months ago

There is an old story where two friends are running away from a bear. One stops to put on his running shoes, to the surprise of his friend. "I don't need to outrun the bear", he explains. "I just need to outrun you".

This is also how some airlines are hoping to survive the coronavirus crisis.

Covid-19 has devastated the airline industry, as lockdowns across the world have grounded planes as countries have closed their borders.

It is not clear whether normal air traffic will resume after the lockdowns lift. Will a scared public still want to travel to potentially virus-filled countries?

After 9/11, it took three years before air travel resumed it's pre-9/11 levels. And that happened only because airports and airlines sought to visibly increase security to reassure the public that flying was safe.

This time around, reassurance will be harder. Airports and airlines can be rigorous about their cleanliness but they can't control the situation in the destination countries. A vaccine looks about 18 months away, and not all countries in the world will be able to afford to give it to their citizens.

There are two ways airlines can make money in that situation: one is by transporting cargo in their holds. The other is hoping that their competitors go bankrupt.

If the number of flights drop but the drop is spread evenly across all airlines, then they all suffer, as they have fixed costs but reduced revenue. But if some airlines go bust, that reduces the number of flights without reducing the revenue for the remaining airlines, who then gain market share.

All the airlines are aware of this strategy, which is why they are begging governments for a bailout. They're hoping that if they can get a bailout, while their competitors don't, they can last long enough till their competitor goes bust, whereby they can then gain enough new customers to fly full planes.

This strategy is a risk for governments too: what if you give your airline a bailout, but their foreign competitors are just better run and outcompete their rivals? You lose an airline and you lose your tax funded bailout money too.

Ryanair is expecting to be the big survivor in this new world. They have no debt, they own most of their planes, they don't rent them (which means they have assets they can sell), and they have a big cash pile of about €3.8 bn.

That means they can wait out their competitors, repurpose some of their planes for cargo (as they own them) and then just wait as long as it takes, with their task getting easier and easier as their competitors go bankrupt.

It's notable that they haven't asked for a bailout loan. They don't need it.

The other airlines are in a very weak condition and most will not survive the post-corona world.

Obviously do your own research if you invest in this sector. This post is just my opinion and is not intended to be investment advice.