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American carriers post Q3 cargo declines

By control on October 25, 2012

Top U.S. carriers American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, US Airways and United Airlines all posted lower cargo revenues in the third quarter of 2012, which ended September 30. Delta, however, fared better than its North American counterparts; the carrier’s net income soared 91 percent, year-over-year.

Cargo revenues stalled 5 percent, year-over-year, for Delta during the third quarter, falling to $243 million for the period. Still, such declines were partially offset by higher airfreight volumes, according to a press release issued by Delta.

Although Delta’s third-quarter expenditures totaled $425 million — $275 million of which was directly related to fleet enhancements — the carrier’s net income rose to $1.05 billion in the third quarter. In the press release, Delta explained that this figure was elevated by its $440 million profit on mark-to-market adjustments on fuel hedges and gains associated with slot exchanges.

Company president Ed Bastian praised the carrier’s “solid revenue performance,” stating that it reflects Delta’s effective capacity management initiatives and strong investments in products and services. “We expect our revenue performance to benefit from our continued capacity discipline and further corporate travel gains, and we are forecasting our October unit revenues to increase 4 percent to 5 percent, year over year,” he added.

Officials for American Airlines hold a less optimistic short-term outlook. The carrier, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last November, saw cargo revenue slide 6.2 percent, year-over-year, in the third quarter of 2012. American Airlines executives also reported a drop in freight tonnage during the first nine months of the year, with cargo traffic stalling 1.2 percent from January-to-September 2011.

From a company-wide standpoint, American Airlines incurred a net loss of $238 million in the third quarter of 2012, an even more dramatic decline than the $162 million net loss it recorded in the same period last year. Excluding charges related to AA's corporate restructuring, as well as special costs, the carrier would have recorded a net gain of $110 million, according to a press release.

US Airways, which is reportedly in talks with American Airlines about a possible merger, saw record numbers in the third quarter. The carrier’s net income surged to $245 million during this period, up from $76 million in the third quarter of 2011. Cargo revenue dropped sharply in the third quarter, however, falling 13.3 percent, year-over-year.

Competitor United Airlines reported a similar drop. Freight revenue plunged 13.1 percent, year-over-year, in the third quarter, while United’s revenue per-passenger slid 2.6 percent, year-over-year. Parents company United Continental Holdings, which is still in the process of amalgamating United and Continental’s networks, also saw net income plunge to $6 million during the quarter; last year, the carrier earned $653 million.

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