Weak euro, oil price offset terror attacks: Air France-KLM CFO

A weaker euro and lower fuel prices helped Air France-KLM return to profit in 2015, offsetting the drop in bookings due to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Group Chief Financial Officer Pierre Francois-Riolacci told CNBC on Thursday.

"I think that people sometimes overestimate the fuel price and the effect in 2015, which was a bit more than 400 million euros, because there was hedging and also there was the euro-dollar rate that of course upset quite a lot of this price decrease. So it surely helped us but at the same time, we had downward pressure on the revenues, with unit revenues being down, excluding forex, significantly, from one year to the other," Riolacci told CNBC.

Riolacci said the company is expecting a further decrease in their 2016 fuel bill.

"From 2014 to 2015, the fuel bill [decreased] by about 2 billion dollars… [but] in euros, it's only about 400,000 million," said Riolacci.

However, "if we knew where the oil prices were going, we would be rich. Our business is not to play on the oil price, our business is to transport passengers and cargo," Riolacci told CNBC.

Air France planes are parked on the tarmac of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.
Gabriel Bouys | AFP | Getty Images
Air France planes are parked on the tarmac of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

Riolacci also said the carrier suffered a big impact from the terrorist attacks in France in January and November 2015, especially from the Japanese market.

"It badly hit our customers, especially in the Japanese market," said Riolacci. "With the November 13 attacks, we had a second hit. We estimate that the second hit impact was about 1.20 million euros that impacted us somewhere in November/ December… But we believe this impact today has nearly 100 percent faded away."

"These attacks are not good news for anyone… [but] people are not going to stop living, not going to stop traveling," said Riolacci.

The CFO told CNBC that the Asian slowdown impacting the airline is not coming from China but rather Japan.

"We had a lower demand in Asian markets but driven by Japan. We cannot notice anything in a slowdown in 2015 coming from China, we have not noticed any significant downward impact coming from China. Japanese tourists are not coming to Europe anymore like they were before," said Riolacci.

"A year ago we were selling 80 percent of our tickets [from] Japan in Japan, now only 50 percent," said Riolacci.

The carrier achieved an operating profit of 816 million euros ($909 million), compared with a loss of 129 million in 2014, it said in a statement on Thursday. This beat the average forecast of 544 million in a Reuters poll.

The airline forecast a reduction of between 0.8 percent and 1.2 percent in unit costs, "further significant net debt reduction" and free operating cash flow generation after disposals of between 0.6 billion and 1.0 billion euros in 2016.

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Reuters contributed to this report.