After two bitter years of losses in the Corona crisis, Lufthansa again made billions in profits in day-to-day business in 2022. Thanks to the recovery in ticket demand and record results in freight and maintenance, the operating profit adjusted for special items (adjusted EBIT) reached a good 1.5 billion euros, as the group announced on Friday in Frankfurt. For 2023, CEO Carsten Spohr expects a “significant” increase, also thanks to the continued high ticket prices. However, this time there will not be a dividend for the shareholders.

In the second Corona year 2021, Lufthansa posted an operating loss of almost 1.7 billion euros without special effects such as the expensive job cuts. In 2022, the start of the year was still marked by the corona virus and the associated travel restrictions. However, over the course of the year, demand for flight tickets rose sharply.

Since business with air freight and aircraft maintenance was also booming, the Management Board increased its profit target three times over the course of the year. The adjusted operating profit of a good 1.5 billion euros met the December forecast almost exactly and also met the expectations of industry experts.

Flight offer is shrinking

The Lufthansa management initially did not give an exact profit forecast for 2023. Analysts surveyed by the group recently assumed an average adjusted operating profit of 1.65 billion euros. According to the Executive Board, the Lufthansa Cargo freight division is unlikely to reach its record profit of 2022 again. On the other hand, the passenger division should again post clearly positive figures in day-to-day business.

The range of flights is likely to continue to be a good deal smaller than before the pandemic. Management is currently assuming an average of 85 to 90 percent of the pre-crisis level of 2019 for 2023 – in the first quarter it was only around 75 percent. Lufthansa justified this with expected bottlenecks in air traffic. The group had already confirmed in mid-February that it had cut its summer flight schedule due to the shortage of staff in the industry.

Group sales almost doubled in 2022 and amounted to almost 32.8 billion euros. The bottom line was a surplus of 791 million euros after a loss of almost 2.2 billion the year before.

The group is not already out of the red everywhere

In total, the Group companies Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels transported around 102 million passengers, more than twice as many as in 2021. Nevertheless, in the passenger business only the subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian managed to return to profitability for the year as a whole. Across the group, the passenger division remained in the red at 300 million euros, as the profits in the second half of the year could not offset the losses from the first six months, which were shaped by the pandemic.

This was not due to low ticket prices: for the year as a whole, average revenues were 16 percent higher than in 2019, and even 21 percent higher in the fourth quarter. However, Lufthansa had to shoulder higher fuel costs: Although the group’s flight offering in 2022 was only 72 percent of the pre-crisis level, the fuel bill of 7.6 billion euros was around 900 million euros higher than back then.

The air freight business once again ran brilliantly. The subsidiary Lufthansa Cargo achieved an adjusted operating profit of 1.6 billion euros and exceeded the record result of the previous year by around 100 million. The maintenance division Lufthansa Technik benefited from the recovery in air traffic and also achieved a record with an adjusted operating profit of 511 million euros. The catering division LSG recorded a loss of 11 million euros.

Shareholders have to be patient

Despite the annual profit, shareholders are not expected to receive a dividend for 2022, according to the annual report. In addition, the Executive Board wants to have liquidity of eight to ten billion euros in order to better protect Lufthansa against crises.

After the business slump as a result of the corona pandemic, Germany and neighboring countries had provided a total of nine billion euros to protect the group and its subsidiaries from collapse. After the repayment of state aid from Germany and Switzerland, Lufthansa also repaid the last aid money from Austria and Belgium in the fourth quarter. This ended all state stabilization measures, it said.

In view of the group’s return to profitability, the Verdi union is now demanding additional money for the staff. The company should pay all group employees an “inflation compensation premium” of 3,000 euros, Verdi group supervisor Marvin Reschinsky demanded. Another year of crisis due to staff shortages must be averted.