SYDNEY (Reuters) - Singapore Airlines Ltd on Thursday posted a S$142 million (US$106.36 million) net loss in the third quarter as passenger numbers plunged by 97.6% due to the pandemic, though its cargo business held up better given a tight freight market. The loss compared with the prior year's S$315 million profit in the quarter ended Dec. 31. Revenue fell 76.1% to S$1.07 billion. The bottom line loss was slimmer than its S$331 million operating loss due to a tax credit.Broker UOB Kay Hian had expected it to report a core loss of around S$470 million for the quarter, excluding any impairment charges, while UBS had forecast a net loss of S$330 million. Singapore Airlines operated around 19% of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity in December and said it expected to reach around 25% of normal levels by the end of April as it adds flights to its schedule despite the spread of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus. "In line with Singapore's progressive re-opening, the group expects to see a measured expansion of the passenger network over the coming months," the airline said in a statement."We will continue to monitor the status of travel restrictions and adjust our capacity accordingly to meet the traffic demand."The carrier will begin operating Boeing Co 737-800 planes at its main brand from March as part of a plan to merge its regional offshoot SilkAir into the parent, with full integration expected by March 2022. Singapore Airlines has raised S$13.3 billion since the start of the pandemic and said discussions on aircraft sale and leaseback deals were at an advanced stage. The airline's staff have begun to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of the government's goal of making it the first carrier to have fully vaccinated employees. The airline last year cut 4,300 jobs, or around 20% of its staff, due to the pandemic-related collapse in travel demand.
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