Malaysia's AirAsia looks beyond losses to travel return

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Malaysian budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd reported its fifth consecutive quarterly loss on Tuesday as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on travel in the third quarter.

Airlines have been badly hit by the coronavirus crisis, which brought air travel to a near standstill at its height earlier this year, forcing many to seek financial help.

Although encouraged by a resumption of domestic travel in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines during the three-month period ended September, AirAsia said a spike in coronavirus cases in Malaysia and subsequent curbs had led it to reduce capacity in the country in October and November.

“AirAsia Group is looking forward to the gradual reopening of domestic travel and international borders in recognition that air transport provides the connectivity that is essential for the resumption of economic activities,” it said in a statement.

The airline reported a net loss of 851.8 million ringgit ($209 million) for the three-month period, from 51.4 million ringgit net loss a year ago, while its revenue fell 85.6% to 442.9 million ringgit.

AirAsia said in had carried 1.9 million passengers in the third quarter, compared with 13 million in the same period last year, with its load factor -- a measure of how full planes are -- dropping by 18 percentage points to 66%. ($1 = 4.0850 ringgit) (Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Alexander Smith)