Japan Airlines Co. said Friday it expects to post a net loss of between 240 billion yen ($2.3 billion) and 270 billion yen in the current business year through March, the first red ink since its relisting in 2012, as the coronavirus pandemic sharply reduced demand for air travel.

JAL said it logged a net loss of 161.23 billion yen in the first half of fiscal 2020. Earnings before interest and taxes saw a loss of 223.97 billion yen on sales of 194.79 billion yen, down 74.0 percent from a year earlier.

"We have seen very severe results following the continued impact of the virus," Hideki Kikuyama, a senior managing executive officer of JAL, said at a press conference.

The airline said the number of international passengers plunged 97.7 percent in the six months through September from a year earlier, as many countries restricted entries since the outbreak of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.

The number of domestic passengers also dropped 76.1 percent due partly to a resurgence of virus infections across Japan during this summer's holiday season, despite the government's launch of a subsidy program for trips in Japan.

However, Kikuyama said its financial standing has been "steadily recovering" due to its cost-cutting efforts, reducing payroll costs and advertisement fees. Its net loss in the July-September period stood at 67.5 billion yen, an improvement from a 93.7 billion yen net loss in the previous quarter.

He said JAL will strengthen its low-cost carrier business with its subsidiary airline Zipair Tokyo Inc. to make up for revenue losses.

The company believes it will take "three or four years" for the number of international business passengers to return to the pre-pandemic level.

It expects the number of international passengers to return to a level of between 25 percent and 45 percent in March from a year earlier, with that of domestic passengers coming back to around 80 percent on a year-on-year basis.

As part of further efforts to ride out the pandemic, JAL plans to retire a total of 24 B-777 large passenger jets and return five B-737 jets on lease by the end of fiscal 2022, expecting to cut fixed costs by around 60 billion yen.

In addition, JAL directors will face a 55 percent cut in remuneration in its next business year starting in April.

Regarding its financial condition, the company said it had 346.6 billion yen in cash at the end of September and will expand its unused commitment line to 300 billion yen by November.

"We have maintained a healthy financial base," despite the business difficulties, Kikuyama said.

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