A look at earnings from the major airlines
The major U.S. airlines reported third-quarter earnings over the past two weeks. The quarter included a good chunk of the busy summer season but also incorporated one of the weakest months — September. The airlines continued to face high fuel costs. They raised some fares in response, but still offered deals to keep planes full. And both business travelers and leisure travelers faced headwinds from slow economic growth and high unemployment.
Here is a summary of earnings reports from United Continental Holdings Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc., US Airways Group Inc., AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, and Southwest Airlines Co.
— Oct. 25. United Continental's profit shrunk to $6 million from $653 million a year ago. Quarterly revenue fell for the first time since the last three months of 2009 as fewer passengers flew on United. The world's biggest airline also took a charge of $454 related to a contract agreement with its pilots. The integration of Continental Airlines hasn't gone as smoothly as hoped following a 2010 merger.
— Oct. 24. Delta earned $1 billion in the third quarter, almost double from a year ago. Delta has been posting gains in per-passenger revenue — a key measure of airline performance — that have been higher than other airlines, and is aiming to cut fuel costs by purchasing an oil refinery near Philadelphia. Delta is making other moves to cut costs. It wants to shift to bigger planes to reduce maintenance spending and to give passengers a better flying experience.
— Oct. 24. US Airways posted record net income of $245 million, or $1.24 per share. Revenue rose 3 percent to $3.53 billion. The nation's fifth-biggest airline predicted that revenue per mile will rise roughly 3 percent over last year for the final three months of 2012. The results are important as US Airways pursues a merger with American Airlines, which is reorganizing under bankruptcy protection.
— Oct. 17. Southwest Airlines posted a profit of 2 cents per share, compared with a loss of 18 cents a year earlier. Revenue was lighter than the company expected. CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC that Southwest saw some "softness" in business travel and that demand weakened in September. It's possible that slowdown is over, however. Kelly said a key measure of revenue is 4 percent higher this month than in October 2011.
— Oct. 16. American Airlines parent AMR Corp. reported a quarterly loss of $238 million due to costs related to its restructuring in bankruptcy court. But the nation's No. 3 airline said its operating performance was strong. It made more money per passenger and flights were fuller than in any previous quarter. American was plagued by delays and cancellations in September, but said those didn't have a significant impact on its bottom line.