Flight Centre mulls big changes after COVID-19 drives $662 million loss

Flight Centre

Flight Centre is preparing to make some big changes to its business after the COVID-19 pandemic saw it post a $662 million statutory loss after tax on Thursday.

The ASX-listed travel agent has been hit hard by government restrictions brought on by the coronavirus crisis, with most of Australia’s major internal borders still closed and international tourism just getting started again.

Flight Centre was on track to book a profit for the financial year 2020, but the company said the $150 million underlying profit it had recorded for the eight months to February disappeared as the pandemic set in.

“Until the past four or five months, we had not seen — and could not have imagined — a scenario in which virtually all flights and travel plans globally would effectively be grounded for an extended period,” Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner said in a statement.

“This extraordinary trading environment has already had a devastating impact on businesses and on people, particularly those in the aviation, travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, with tens of thousands of jobs lost in Australia alone and many businesses struggling to survive.”

Flight Centre is preparing to make big changes to its business in the wake of the pandemic, including positioning its leisure business towards luxury travellers and leaning on its corporate business, which the company says is “well-placed” to break even.

The company has raised more than a billion dollars in extra cash to keep it going during the pandemic, and has also cut about $1.9 billion in costs, including extensive lay-offs.

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