Air Partner performance boosted by airfreight operations and repatriation flights

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The strong demand for airfreight transport, group travel and repatriation flights during the coronavirus pandemic helped to bolster the performance of global aviation services company Air Partner in the first five months of its financial year. 

However, the outlook for the rest of 2020 looks less rosy for the UK-headquartered firm, as requests for these services dry up and economic uncertainty stifles the air travel market.

At an annual general meeting on July 15, Air Partner chair Ed Warner said the company’s performance between February and June “was predominantly driven by very high levels of Covid-19-related activity in our group charter and freight divisions, including repatriations, corporate shuttles and emergency PPE flying”.

The company was “well positioned” to support the “emergency aviation needs” of its customers during the pandemic, he added, due to “early and decisive action”.

Business so far in July had been “more normalised”, Warner said, “and we have seen fewer emergency freight flights and less repatriation work”.

The company is, however, “encouraged” by the level of enquiries it is receiving from customers “returning to our private jet and safety and security products, and we are anticipating a profitable month”, Warner said.

While Air Partner will not report its half-year earnings until September at the earliest, Warner expects trading between 1 February and 30 June will have been “significantly ahead of budget”. Unaudited management accounts for this period show an “expected underlying profit before tax of at least £10 million [$12.6 million]”. This compares with £3 million for the six months ended 31 July 2019.

While the company is “very pleased” with its performance to date, Warner is cautions that “visibility for the second half [of the financial year] remains limited, with economic and regulatory uncertainty from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

In response, he said Air Partner has “undertaken a number of cost-saving initiatives to reflect the likely future demand patterns for our aviation services”. Details of these measures have not been disclosed.

Anticipating a downturn in activity, Air Partner in June raised £7.5 million from existing and new shareholders. These funds, Warner said, “have enabled the group to enter the second half of the year with significantly reduced debt and good working capital to invest in organic growth opportunities”. 

Meanwhile, the company said that since February it has delivered more than 12m kg of cargo thus far to the US and Europe from China and Southeast Asia on a range of chartered freighter aircraft such as the Antonov AN-124, Boeing 747-400F, Boeing 777F, Boeing 767F, and Airbus A330F.

Additionally, Air Partner’s freight team used their extensive experience to charter numerous passenger configured aircraft to move urgent PPE cargo, as an innovative approach to overcome the global cargo aircraft capacity crunch during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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