NEW YORK: American Airlines reported another quarterly loss yesterday after the latest COVID-19 surge dented demand at the end of the year, but said consumers were booking more trips for the spring. The big US carrier echoed rivals Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in citing the Omicron wave of Covid-19 as a recent drag that has depressed bookings early in 2022.
But American has seen an uptick in reservations beyond the next 60 days, Chief Executive Doug Parker said. “It does feel like the consumer has the confidence at being able to travel,” Parker said on CNBC, while acknowledging “the results would have been better were it not for Omicron.”
The carrier reported a loss of $931 million for the fourth quarter, compared with a $2.2 billion loss in the same three months of 2020. Revenues more than doubled to $9.4 billion compared with the same period a year earlier. But in October-December 2019, before COVID-19 hit shutting down travel, American had revenues of $11.3 billion. The latest quarter started buoyantly, with airlines seeing increased bookings as COVID-19 vaccinations became widespread and most of the US economy reopened. But hopes dimmed as the Omicron variant surfaced as a major worry, delaying an industry comeback, especially in highly profitable business travel.
“Over the past year, we have experienced periods of high travel demand countered by periods of decreased demand due to new COVID-19 variants,” Parker said in a statement.
“This volatility has created the most challenging planning environment in the history of commercial aviation.” American’s forecast implies lower-priced leisure travel will remain a disproportionately large share of its travel volume. The airline projected first-quarter capacity would be down eight to 10 percent from pre-pandemic levels, while revenues would be off 20 to 22 percent. The company’s share price rose 1.2 percent to $17.52 in pre-market trading.
Meanwhile, United Airlines reported another quarterly loss Wednesday on the lingering drag from COVID-19 but offered an upbeat outlook on a travel comeback later in 2022 and in future years. The US carrier acknowledged that it is beginning 2022 “with a scaled-back schedule” following the latest uptick in virus cases, but will “nimbly ramp up” capacity later in the year, according to a news release. “While Omicron is impacting near-term demand, we remain optimistic about the spring and excited about the summer and beyond,” said United Chief Executive Scott Kirby.
United reported a fourth-quarter loss of $646 million, about a third of the loss from the year-ago period, but far from the $641 million profit in the 2019 period.
Revenues were $8.2 billion, more than twice the level in 2020 but a 25 percent drop from the figure in the 2019 quarter. The period covered by the release started buoyantly, with airlines seeing increased bookings as COVID-19 vaccinations were rolled out and most of the US economy reopened.
But hopes dimmed later in the quarter as the Omicron variant surfaced as a major worry, prompting thousands of flight cancelations over the holidays because US carriers temporarily lost airline staff who were infected. United projected its first-quarter capacity will be down 16 to 18 percent compared to 2019 levels. It also expects 2022 capacity to be below the level of 2019. Shares of United fell 1.4 percent to $43.79 in after-hours trading. — AFP