By its own reckoning, Air New Zealand is two years away from profitability, with chief executive Greg Foran outlining an 800-day recovery programme last week.
The decision to stick to its guns by refusing to refund tickets on flights cancelled during the Covid-19 lockdown has caused a storm of protest from its customers, including many frequent fliers, who say they are unable to make use of the credit.
"My money should be on the balance sheet of my small business not theirs," Holly Bennett wrote on LinkedIn on Sunday.
While domestic travel can now return to normal after New Zealand moved to Covid-19 alert level 1, the economy is still likely to be in a deep recession, meaning that while demand will rise, it may not necessarily return to what it was.
"It's not a given that domestic travel will return to normal," Mark Lister, head of private client wealth at Craigs Investment Partners said.
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Air New Zealand shares "should come with a pretty hefty health warning" given the many risks confronting the sector, Lister said.
The outlook for international travel is unclear even to Australia, let alone beyond.
And yet, shares in the airline are flying.
Air New Zealand shares dropped to 80c in late March, recovering to $1.255 by May 25.
In the just over two weeks since, shares have climbed by more than 50 per cent, with Air New Zealand gaining more than 8 per cent on Tuesday, to close at $1.94.
While shares are down on where they were two years ago, the investment market is scratching its head at the company being valued at more than $2 billion.
NZX data shows that the period since the lockdown began has been some of the heaviest trading in the airline in years.
Unlike some of its international rivals, Air New Zealand is destined not to fail.
Even before the country was placed into lockdown, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced that the Government would provide up to $900 million in loans.
Without the loan, it is almost certain that the airline would have been insolvent.
The Government stepped in to prevent this, but not for the sake of the company or its staff, or investors.
Whatever of New Zealand's tourism industry survives Covid-19, it will stand a better chance if the country has a strong domestic network and good connections to the rest of the globe.
But the Government surely cannot bail out the company in such a way that validates recent share speculation.
Robertson's office declined to comment on how it might approach a future recapitalisation on Tuesday.
"He needs to do the right thing by the taxpayer," Lister said.
"He has opened the taxpayer's wallet to provide a safety net for a business which is pretty close to an essential one. He needs to respect the taxpayer wallet that he's opened up."
If - or more likely when - Air New Zealand starts to draw on the loan, the Government will be in a very strong bargaining position, quite aside from the fact that the loan will carry interest of 7-9 per cent.
The loan is highly likely to be converted into equity, but it is unclear at what price it would do so.
What if it says that it is prepared to buy as many shares as the company needs to remain solvent, but it will only do so at, say, 50c a share? Or 5c a share?
In the event that the Government converts the loan into equity at a deep discount, Air New Zealand's current (private) shareholders will have to either stump up fresh capital for new shares just to maintain their stake in the company, or face being significantly diluted.
Investment analysts have been warning of the risk of dilution for some time.
Jarden has a target price on the shares of 84c on the company, predicting "material losses" in both the current financial year and 2021.
"We expect the company will need to access the Crown loan and as a result incur significant interest costs," Jarden analyst Andrew Steele wrote on May 27.
"While we await updates on the transtasman bubble before assessing the need to raise additional equity, investors should remain watchful of the very real prospect of material shareholder dilution."
In a note in late May, Forsyth Barr head of research Andy Bowley forecast that Air New Zealand's net tangible asset backing (NTA) per share would drop from $1.68 at the end of June 2019, to around $1 at the end of this month.
While Bowley acknowledged that Air New Zealand "offers one of the most favourable structural positions for any airline globally" through its domestic dominance and international joint ventures, overall he was still downbeat, putting a target price on the shares of $1.
"The dramatic impact of Covid-19 on demand through consumer behaviour and government intervention is likely to shift [Air New Zealand] well into loss-making territory for the foreseeable future."
Eventually the Finance Minister is likely to have a key role in deciding the terms on which the company is recapitalised. Robertson could easily clear up any confusion about whether speculation will be rewarded.