Airline Shares Struggle As Revenue Grows but Net Income Falls

Brittney Barrett  |

Airline stocks endured a modest fall during Friday’s session after a week of gains. About three-quarters of the components on the NYSE Arca Airline Index were lower for the day as airlines released earnings reports. Major carriers have been contending with higher fuel prices throughout the year, the same obstacle that brought many companies into steeply negative territory in 2008. Airlines had been shedding value for much of the year on the basis of the weak economy and fuel challenges but many industry players have been able to navigate the new pricier terrain and turn a profit.

US Airlines (LCC) was among the carriers able to fight into the black for the quarter. The company’s CEO Doug Parker credited the earnings to, “a lot of hard work and a real industry transformation that included consolidation, capacity constraints and cost controls as well as management that cares more about return on capital than about growth and market share.”

Even with the changes made, US Airways saw a net income decline of 68 percent on the higher fuel prices in spite of revenue climbing by eight percent. The company also pointed to Hurricane Irene, Yom Kippur and the two week tax holiday as weighing on net income totals.

US emphasized strong demand and sturdy pricing structure as well as the major capacity and cost discipline efforts as potential driver of higher net income in the next quarter and upcoming fiscal year. Shares of US were among the very few to exhibit strength in trading following the earnings reports.

The changes adopted by US Air were also embraced by a number of other airlines struggling with the heavy correlation between profits and price of jet fuel, US Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) among them. The company delivered a 9 percent increase on revenue but like US Airways saw set income decline by 23 percent. Perhaps for lack of highly enthusiastic guidance, shares of US Airways fell over three percent, ending the week 5 percent lower.

AMR Corp. (AMR) shares also fell after delivery a quarterly loss surpassing expectations. Southwest Airlines (LUV) which typically exhibits strength also endured losses. The company said noncash mark down in fuel hedges was wholly responsible for the red quarter. Shares of both companies fell during trading.

Discount airline JetBlue Airways Corporation (JBLU) was among the few carriers to post losses in-line with expectations. The 12 cents in adjusted earnings was somewhat expected but still considerably lower than the 18 cents earned during the same period last year.Total revenue added 16 percent from last year, reaching $1.195 billion. In spite of record revenue the company still tumbled during trading but still ended the week 5.3 percent higher.

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