American Airlines Sees Profit Above Estimates on Steady Demand

(Bloomberg) — American Airlines Group Inc. expects profit this year to exceed estimates following a slow start, as steady demand for air travel keeps an industry recovery going into 2023.

Full-year adjusted earnings will be $2.50 to $3.50 a share, the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier said in a statement Thursday that also detailed fourth-quarter results. Analysts had expected $1.89 on average, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The carrier is anticipating a profitable year despite a first quarter that will be roughly breakeven, short of Wall Street’s estimate of 8 cents a share in profit.

American joined several of its largest rivals anticipating strong travel trends will continue this year despite inflation and threats of a recession. The carrier didn’t detail the growth drivers for the full year in its initial statement.

“American continues the theme of legacy airlines issuing optimistic guidance,” Helane Becker, a Cowen Inc. analyst, said in a note. “The ongoing recovery of long-haul international traffic and growth of its loyalty program should both be supportive of margins.”

The shares reversed an early gain, slipping less than 1% at 9:42 a.m. in New York. American surged 28% this year through Wednesday’s close.

Separately Thursday, rival Southwest Airlines Co. said it expects a first-quarter loss as it grapples with fallout from an operational breakdown last month. JetBlue Airways Corp. also reported financial results, with fourth-quarter earnings beating estimates.

Read more: Southwest Air Sees Loss After December Breakdown

Industry profits have gotten a boost from high ticket prices, driven by a combination of heightened demand and limited growth amid delayed aircraft deliveries and a pilot shortage. American has said demand from small and mid-sized companies and trips mixing leisure with work have recovered faster than larger corporate travel accounts, helping airlines fill the void left by lucrative business flyers.

American expects to expand, with first-quarter flying capacity up as much as 10% year-over-year and up 8% for all of 2023, according to a regulatory filing. Revenue from each seat flown a mile, a measure of passenger traffic and fares, will climb as much as 27% for the quarter and increase in the low-single digits for the year.

American, which has led the industry in long-term debt, is making “significant progress” in repairing its balance sheet, Chief Executive Officer Robert Isom said in a message to employees. After previously setting a program to reduce debt by $15 billion by the end of 2025, the carrier is already “well past the halfway point of our goal.”

Adjusted fourth-quarter profit was $1.17, at the high end of the preliminary range American reported on Jan. 12. Revenue climbed to $13.2 billion, in line with estimates.

(Updates with analyst comment, share trading beginning in fifth paragraph)
Article by Mary Schlangenstein.
© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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