Airlines mostly profitable in the fourth quarter

By Howard Dicus - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The airline industry, so vital to Hawaii's economic well-being, is posting an unusual wave of fourth quarter profits, but the major carriers report jet fuel bills are rising even faster than their new baggage fees.

United Continental Holdings reported Wednesday morning it lost $325 million in the quarter if one counts merger costs, but without those costs the company made a $160 million profit.

Revenue was up 15% from a year earlier but jet fuel costs were up 27%.

United and Continental combined corporately Oct. 1 but consolidating the two airlines will take at least a year. In the fourth quarter the company repainted 200 jets with its new livery combining the United name with the Continental globe logo on the tail. The company said it also integrated some of the two carriers' computer networks.

United flies more seats to Hawaii than any other carrier; Continental has Hawaii's only nonstop service from the New York area (Newark), Houston and Guam.

US Airways, now the fourth largest U.S. Carrier after United Continental, Delta and American, posted Wednesday a $28 million profit, its first fourth quarter profit in four years.

Revenue was up 11% but jet fuel was up 23%.

US Airways, incorporating the former America West, transfer a substantial number of Hawaii visitors at its Phoenix hub from its extensive route network in the U.S. East region.

On Tuesday, Alaska Airlines, which has shifted 15% of its capacity to Hawaii routes and now has more flights to Hawaii than to Alaska, reported a $65 million fourth quarter profit, almost triple the same quarter a year earlier.

Earlier, Delta, now encompassing the former Northwest Airlines, reported a $120 million fourth quarter profit while American Airlines posted a $97 million loss. Southwest Airlines made a $131 million fourth quarter profit. Profits rose at JetBlue.

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