Asia’s low-cost carriers continue to grow rapidly, both in scope and model, but it is still the region’s network carriers which are posting the biggest profits in absolute terms.
The Airline Business/Flightglobal World Airline Rankings show the big Japanese and Chinese network carriers among the most profitable in the region. This despite the negative impact year-on-year in US Dollar terms from currency changes over the last 12 months.
Japan Airlines was the most profitable airline by both operating and net profits, while All Nippon Airways was the third most profitable at an operating level. Air China was the most profitable of the Chinese operators. Profits at all three though were down on the previous year.
The profit and loss data for over 30 Asia-Pacific operators featuring in the top 150 airlines by revenue in 2013 though shows profits for the region's carriers down on the previous year. Collective operating profits of $4.3 billion last year is roughly half the $8 billion the same carriers achieved in the previous year.
Net profits were also down. The region's carriers generated a net return of $1.3 billion for 2013. This though is short of the $4.6 billion collective net profit for the previous year.
Alongside currency issues and weaker demand in some regions, Asia-Pacific carriers have also been more exposed to the struggling air cargo market.
Cathay Pacific and Qantas were among the carriers in the region to post the biggest improvements in their last full financial year. Cathay Pacific posted a healthy $485 million operating profit, while Qantas swung back to an operating profit of $208 million for the year ending June 2013. But Qantas barely broke even at a net level and its challenges remain evident after dropping back into the red at the halfway stage of its current financial year.
It remains a challenging period for Indian carriers. Figures for both Jet Airways and Air India remained in the red, though fresh data from the Indian civil aviation ministry shows the airline managed to at least narrow its operating loss to INR2.1 billion ($361 million) in its 2013-14 fiscal year.
Both carrier also have been given lifts by recent developments; Jet securing a new investor in the shape of Etihad and Air India’s stalled Star Alliance membership finally coming to fruitition in July.