American Airlines Limits Flying Plans On ‘Challenging Conditions’

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American Airlines joined its main rivals in limiting flying this quarter and for 2022 as the industry grapples with a rash of costly flight disruptions and economic volatility that threaten a rebound in travel demand.

Flight capacity will be down as much as 10% this quarter and 9.5% for the year from pre-pandemic levels, the airline said in statement Thursday that also detailed earnings results. American’s adjusted profit was 76 cents a share in the second quarter, matching expectations from analysts. Revenue was a quarterly record $13.4 billion, topping expectations for nearly $13.2 billion.

Like its main competitors, American is grappling with higher fuel and labor expenses that have crimped its ability to rebound from a downturn early in the pandemic. The carrier expects non-fuel costs for each seat flown a mile to rise as much as 14% in the third quarter from 2019, compared with a 22% increase forecast by Delta Air Lines. Such expenses, a gauge of efficiency, will increase as much as 12% for the year at American.

“As we look to the rest of the year, we have taken proactive steps to build additional buffer into our schedule and will continue to limit capacity to the resources we have and the operating conditions we face,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom said in a letter to employees.

American shares fell 3% before the start of regular trading in New York. United Airlines tumbled 7.4% after disclosing its own plans late Wednesday to limit growth for the rest of this year and next. Delta slid 2.9%.

U.S. carriers have been hamstrung by costly flight cancellations and delays amid labor shortages and air traffic congestion, limiting their ability to take full advantage of unprecedented demand. Cutting flights could help restore reliability, but it means turning away passengers willing to pay higher fares and higher unit costs for airlines. The current industry environment is “very challenging,” Isom said.

Rising inflation and economic slowing aren’t crimping demand, the bright spot in the pandemic recovery for US carriers. Revenue will climb 12% in the third quarter from three years ago, American said. Sales for each seat flown a mile — a measure of passenger traffic and fares — will be as much as 24% higher.

The quarterly profit was American’s first since the pandemic began to affect travel in early 2020, and it expects the same in the current period. American reported some preliminary expectations for the second quarter earlier this month.

United will limit flying to 13% below pre-pandemic levels this year, and cuts its growth expectations for 2023. Delta is holding capacity at its June level for the rest of 2022, with the third quarter as much as 17% below 2019.

A group of 11 U.S. carriers should report record quarterly revenue of $53.3 billion and combined pretax income of $4.2 billion for the three months ended June 30, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg.

(c) 2022, Bloomberg · Mary Schlangenstein 



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