Japan Airlines forecasts record annual loss of $3.6 billion after swing to second-quarter loss

FILE PHOTO: A Japan Airlines monitor shows the lobby is closed at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport after all direct flights between Japan and Hawaii were suspended due to the business downturn caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Garcia

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan Airlines Co Ltd (JAL) 9201.T on Friday forecast a record operating loss of as much as 380 billion yen ($3.63 billion) for the year through March, and said it would retire 24 Boeing Co BA.N 777 planes early as the pandemic hits travel demand.

JAL’s forecast range of 330 billion yen to 380 billion yen compared to the 273.1 billion yen loss average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.

The airline posted a second-quarter operating loss of 92.9 billion yen, versus profit of 82.9 billion a year earlier.

JAL expects cash burn of 15 billion yen to 20 billion yen a month in the second half of the financial year compared to 45 billion yen to 50 billion yen in the first half. It also plans to expand a credit line by 100 billion yen next month.

Japan's second-biggest airline has, like other carriers, been hammered by a collapse in international air travel demand. It said on Friday it planned to retire 24 of its 777 widebodies by March 2023, though its response is less aggressive than larger rival ANA Holdings Inc 9202.T.

ANA this week forecast a record full-year operating loss of 505 billion yen and said it would reduce its fleet by more than a tenth by retiring 35 planes, including 777s jets this year.

Domestic bookings at JAL in October are at around half of what they were a year ago, while overseas flights are still mostly empty. By the end of March, international demand is likely to be below 50% of normal but domestic demand could be back to around 80%, JAL said.

Domestic demand has been helped by a government tourism campaign that offers discounts on air tickets and hotels. JAL and ANA are also looking to strengthen their budget airline businesses as leisure travel is rebounding faster than business travel.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christopher Cushing