All legacy carriers make millions in 2010 except AA


The airline world isn’t suffering. Every major airline in the country is making millions and millions of dollars, except for American Airlines, that seems on a self-destructive Quixotic mission to change the travel world.

Of course, rising fuel prices are a lurking profit concern and the airlines’ continuing battles with their labor forces can’t help productivity, morale or customer service. Plus, consumers are irritated about the airlines’ continuing concealment of ancillary fees that are rising far more quickly than any airfares. But, if someone was to look at airlines by examining the bottom line, they would have to conclude that life is good at 30,000 feet.

First the bad news — American Airlines is losing money. Less that before, but still the airline that used to be the biggest in the country and now #4 and dropping is bleeding money, almost $100 million.

American parent AMR Corp. said Wednesday it lost $97 million in the fourth quarter, or 29 cents per share. That’s smaller than the $344 million loss AMR posted a year ago, and it beat the forecast of analysts, who expected a loss of 36 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Here are the winners.

Delta has been busily digesting the takeover of Northwest Airlines and in the process finding their way to profits. They have also benefited by the workers rejection of unionization across almost every area of operations except the pilots.

Delta reported a profit of $19 million for the fourth quarter and $593 million for all of 2010, marking the company’s first fourth-quarter profit since 2000 and first annual profit since 2007.

United/Continental, the newly merged entity that is now the top dog in terms of size is only in the first stages of their integration. But, they are doing it successfully so far and presented a dramatic $1.5 billion turnaround from last year.

United Continental Holdings, parent of merger partners United Airlines and Continental Airlines, reported pro forma 2010 net income of $854 million, reversed from a combined UA/CO loss of $718 million in 2009.

US Airways, once the sickest of the airlines prior to their purchase by America West, seems to be finding their way to profits. Plus, customer service has turned up dramatically and while other legacy carriers have been allowing their coach product to deteriorate, US Airways has been maniacal about taking care of maintenance and the small things that passengers notice like working reading lights, tray tables and seat recline.

US Airways posted net income of $502 million in 2010, reversed from a net loss of $205 million in 2009 and the second highest annual profit in its history. For the first time since 2006, it achieved a profitable fourth quarter, earning $28 million, turned around from a $79 million deficit in the prior-year period.

Of course Southwest made money, it seems to always make a profit and keep its labor force and its passengers happy. JetBlue’s balance sheets showed millions in profits. And virtually every other airline of significance has seen a profitable year.

Let’s hope that the airlines prowess at making money might translate into a new skill at keeping passengers happy. Or is that too much to ask.

  • OTC

    Why do I see Delta making a play for AA in the next few years? Not sure if it would work or if it would be allowed, but I am sure they’ll be thinking hard about it.