For easyJet to post a headline loss before tax of over £1bn and issue a largely bullish results statement is proof positive of the curious world in which we now live.
The pandemic has somehow turned numbers that would normally signify a company is terminal into just another step on the road to recovery.
Even though he conceded the Omicron variant has resulted in a “softening in demand”, Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s Chief Executive, was upbeat, saying “we have prepared ourselves for periods of uncertainty such as this”.
Lundgren is even expecting the airline to return to near pre-pandemic levels of capacity next summer, adding that the airline “is moving through the pandemic with renewed strength having transformed the business by optimising our network and flexibility, delivering significant cost savings while also step-changing ancillary revenue.”
To use the phrase ‘renewed strength’ in the same breath as you report a £1bn hit to the bottom line is peak pandemic. Just two years ago you would have been packed off to the lunatic asylum.
Whatever you make of the results, a billion pound loss is a stern reminder of exactly how brutal conditions still are for the travel industry, nearly two years since the first cases of Covid-19 started to make the news.
What’s now crystal clear is that, even for short-haul airlines such as easyJet, the pandemic will have an extremely long tail. The emergence of new Covid variants can hit sentiment in seconds and the bottom line almost as quickly.
Even if the Omicron variant is not as virulent as some feared, it underlines how investor sentiment, and share prices, can turn on a dime, especially in the highly exposed travel industry.