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US airline 2Q profit margins leap; Alaska, Allegiant, Southwest lead the way

23-Sep-2010
US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood
US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood

The US airline industry is well into recovery, with Department of Transportation statistics revealing network airlines’ profit margin in the second quarter of 2010 was the largest since the second quarter of 2007. To further the point, the combined profit margin for the network, low-cost and regional carrier groups was the highest since the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) began issuing quarterly airline financial numbers in 2002.

Operating Profit/Loss Margin (In Percent)
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

2Q 2010 Rank

Airline Group

2nd Quarter 2009 (%)

3rd Quarter 2009 (%)

4th Quarter 2009 (%)

1st Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)

1

Low-Cost

7.2

8.3

3.9

2.4

9.9

557

2

Network

-0.5

1.4

-1.2

-0.7

9.0

2,421

3

Regional

7.0

4.2

5.5

3.8

6.1

110

 

21-Carrier Total

1.2

2.3

0.2

0.0

9.0

3,088

The six network airlines reported an operating profit margin of 9.0% as a group with a combined operating profit of USD2.4 billion April to June, their first since the third quarter of 2009. The seven low-cost carriers reported a 9.9% profit margin, the largest profit margin since the second quarter of 2006 with profits of USD557 million for the seventh consecutive profitable quarter. The seven regional carriers posted a 6.1% profit margin, down from their normal 8-10% margins as changes in contracts predicted two years ago take hold. The regionals posted profits of USD110 million, down from the 7% margin in the year-ago period.  

The top three operating profit margins were reported by low-cost carriers Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines and network carrier Alaska Airlines. Regional carrier ExpressJet reported the largest loss margin. The only other operating losses were reported by low-cost carriers Frontier Airlines and Spirit.

Network Airline System* Quarterly Operating Profit/Loss Margin (In Percent)
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Margin

2Q 2010 Rank

Network Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009 (%)

3rd Quarter 2009 (%)

4th Quarter 2009 (%)

1st Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)

1

Alaska

4.2

16.8

3.4

5.2

15.5

135

2

Delta

-3.5

1.4

-2.1

1.6

11.2

920

3

US Airways

4.4

0.1

1.0

-0.4

11.1

362

4

United

4.3

2.9

1.9

2.2

10.2

525

5

Continental

-5.2

1.3

-0.2

-2.3

8.7

319

6

American

-5.3

-4.8

-8.5

-6.4

2.8

159

7

Northwest

5.4

6.9

4.5

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

7-Carrier Total

-0.5

1.4

-1.2

-0.7

9.0

2,421

Low-Cost System* Quarterly Operating Profit/Loss Margin (In Percent)
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Margin

2Q 2010 Rank

Low-Cost Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009 (%)

3rd Quarter 2009 (%)

4th Quarter 2009 (%)

1st Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)

1

Allegiant

23.8

14.4

11.7

20.0

13.9

22

2

Southwest

4.7

0.8

6.2

2.1

11.5

362

3

JetBlue

7.9

7.7

7.6

4.8

10.1

95

4

AirTran

1.0

6.2

4.4

0.5

9.7

69

5

Virgin America

-8.4

3.2

-8.2

-13.1

6.1

11

6

Frontier

9.5

10.3

-4.6

-8.1

-0.1

0

7

Spirit

17.3

14.6

12.4

13.1

-1.3

-3

 

7-Carrier Total

7.0

4.2

5.5

2.4

9.9

557

Regional Airline System* Quarterly Operating Profit/Loss Margin (In Percent)
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Margin

2Q 2010 Rank

Regional Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009 (%)

3rd Quarter 2009 (%)

4th Quarter 2009 (%)

1st Quarter 2010 (%)

2nd Quarter 2010 (%)

2ndQuarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)

1

Mesa

4.3

5.5

0.7

2.9

9.8

18

2

Atlantic Southeast

7.7

10.7

8.1

8.1

8.0

14

3

American Eagle

7.1

11.8

7.4

5.2

7.4

37

4

Comair

16.2

3.8

-5.0

8.4

7.4

8

5

SkyWest

8.7

9.2

7.6

5.8

7.1

33

6

Horizon

7.0

13.7

4.3

0.9

4.8

8

7

ExpressJet

-6.1

-4.7

-9.9

-7.8

-4.3

-9

 

7-Carrier Total

7.2

8.0

3.9

3.8

6.1

110

Unit revenues trend strongly upwards for network carriers

The six network carriers' unit revenues in the second quarter of 2010 were USD 15.9 cents per ASM compared to USD 13.4 cents in the second quarter of 2009.

Passenger Airline System* Unit Revenue
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Revenue (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Airline  Group

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)

1

Network

13.4

13.9

14.7

14.6

15.9

26,821

2

Regional

13.4

12.9

13.0

12.5

12.5

1,812

3

Low-Cost

10.0

10.4

10.9

10.8

11.6

5,643

 

21-Carrier Total

12.7

13.1

13.8

13.7

14.8

34,276

The highest unit revenues were reported by regional carriers Horizon and American Eagle and network carrier US Airways. The lowest unit revenues were reported by regional carriers ExpressJet and Comair and low-cost carrier Spirit (Tables 14-16).

Network Airline System* Unit Revenue
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Revenue (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Network Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)

1

US Airways

15.0

15.0

16.1

16.4

17.6

3,252

2

United

12.7

13.8

14.5

15.0

16.6

5,163

3

Delta

14.8

14.4

15.4

15.1

16.2

8,205

4

Continental

12.7

13.0

13.9

13.8

15.3

3,660

5

American

12.7

13.3

13.7

13.7

14.8

5,669

6

Alaska

12.8

14.1

13.1

13.3

14.3

872

7

Northwest

13.3

14.0

16.0

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

7-Carrier Total

13.4

13.9

14.7

14.6

15.9

26,821

Low-Cost Airline System* Unit Revenue
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Revenue (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Low-Cost Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)

1

Southwest

10.2

10.7

11.5

11.6

12.4

3,168

2

AirTran

10.1

9.7

10.3

10.7

11.2

701

3

Frontier

10.1

11.0

9.4

8.4

11.0

316

4

JetBlue

9.8

10.2

10.3

10.3

10.8

940

5

Allegiant

9.9

9.7

10.6

10.9

10.3

160

6

Virgin America

8.0

8.9

10.6

8.3

9.8

184

7

Spirit

9.4

9.2

10.4

10.1

9.1

173

 

7-Carrier Total

10.0

10.4

10.9

10.8

11.6

5,643

Regional Airline System* Unit Revenue
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Revenue (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Regional Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)

1

Horizon

19.1

20.8

20.8

20.0

20.5

171

2

American Eagle

17.8

18.4

20.6

19.6

18.5

494

3

Mesa

12.7

13.2

14.2

14.2

14.5

191

4

SkyWest

11.9

10.9

11.2

11.3

11.3

476

5

Atlantic Southeast

13.7

10.2

10.5

10.8

10.0

173

6

Comair

20.1

21.8

14.5

10.8

9.6

101

7

ExpressJet

6.5

6.4

6.4

6.7

6.6

205

 

7-Carrier Total

13.4

12.9

13.0

12.3

12.5

1,812

Passenger yields. Southwest leads the way for trunk airlines

The six network airlines' passenger yield was USD 13.0 cents per revenue passenger-mile (RPM) in the second quarter of 2010, up from 11.0 cents per RPM in the second quarter of 2009 (Table 17). Passenger revenue yield measures passenger revenues against total travel by dividing passenger revenues by RPMs.

Airline System* Passenger Revenue Yield
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Revenue Yield (Cents Per RPM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Airline  Group

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)

1

Regional

16.6

15.8

16.7

16.6

14.9

1,768

2

Network

11.0

11.2

12.1

12.6

13.0

18,586

3

Low-Cost

11.5

11.4

12.5

12.6

12.9

5,084

 

21-Carrier Total

11.4

11.5

12.5

12.9

13.1

25,438

The top passenger revenue yields were reported by regional carriers American Eagle, Horizon and Mesa Airlines. The lowest passenger revenue yields were reported by regional carrier ExpressJet and low-cost carriers Allegiant and Spirit. United reported the highest passenger yield of any network carrier - but, at USD 13.4cents, was well behind Southwest's USD 14.5cents.

Network Airline System* Passenger Revenue Yield
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Revenue Yield (Cents Per RPM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Network Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)

1

United

10.7

11.2

11.9

12.4

13.4

3,533

2

American

11.7

12.0

12.7

13.4

13.3

4,279

3

Alaska

12.6

13.2

12.3

12.4

13.1

665

4

US Airways

10.8

10.9

12.2

12.7

12.9

1,995

5

Continental

11.0

10.9

11.9

12.3

12.8

2,629

6

Delta

10.7

10.7

11.9

12.3

12.6

5,484

7

Northwest

10.6

10.4

11.8

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

7-Carrier Total

11.0

11.2

12.1

12.6

13.0

18,586

Low-Cost Airline System* Passenger Revenue Yield
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Revenue Yield (Cents Per RPM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Low-Cost Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)

1

Southwest

12.3

12.5

13.8

14.1

14.5

2,929

2

AirTran

11.2

10.3

11.9

12.4

12.2

634

3

JetBlue

11.0

10.9

11.7

12.1

11.9

850

4

Virgin America

8.6

9.4

9.4

9.9

10.9

168

5

Frontier

10.8

10.3

10.1

8.1

10.0

247

6

Allegiant

8.3

8.5

9.3

9.5

8.9

125

7

Spirit

9.3

8.8

9.4

9.8

8.6

130

 

7-Carrier Total

11.5

11.4

12.5

12.6

12.9

5,084

Regional Airlines System* Passenger Revenue Yield
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Revenue Yield (Cents Per RPM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Regional Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)

1

Horizon

24.9

25.8

27.3

27.0

25.8

161

2

American Eagle

23.1

24.4

27.8

27.8

23.6

480

3

Mesa

15.6

16.5

18.6

18.7

17.6

188

4

SkyWest

14.8

13.3

14.1

14.6

13.9

470

5

Comair

25.2

26.0

19.3

15.1

12.2

100

6

Atlantic Southeast

16.7

12.5

13.5

13.8

12.0

172

7

ExpressJet

7.9

7.7

7.9

9.0

7.8

197

 

7-Carrier Total

16.6

15.9

16.7

16.3

14.9

1,768

Unit costs. Southwest shows USD 3cent margin

Unit costs for the network carriers increased from USD 13.5 cents per ASM in the second quarter of 2009 to USD 14.5 cents per ASM in the second quarter of 2010 (Table 9).

Passenger Airline System* Unit Costs
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Costs (Cents Per ASM)
(Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

2Q 2010 Rank

Airline  Group

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)

1

Network

13.5

13.7

14.9

14.7

14.5

24,400

2

Regional

12.4

11.8

12.5

12.0

11.4

1,702

3

Low-Cost

9.3

9.9

10.3

10.6

10.5

5,086

 

21-Carrier Total

12.6

12.8

13.8

13.7

13.4

31,188

The carriers with the highest unit costs were regional airlines Horizon and American Eagle and network carrier US Airways. The lowest unit costs were reported by regional carriers ExpressJet and Comair and low-cost carrier Allegiant.

Network Airline System* Unit Costs Network Carriers
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Costs (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Network Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)

1

US Airways

14.4

15.0

16.0

16.5

15.7

2,890

2

United

12.2

13.4

14.2

14.7

14.9

4,638

3

Delta

15.3

14.2

15.8

14.9

14.4

7,285

4

American

13.3

13.9

14.9

14.6

14.3

5,510

5

Continental

13.4

12.8

13.9

14.1

13.9

3,341

6

Alaska

12.3

11.7

12.7

12.6

12.1

737

7

Northwest

12.6

13.1

15.3

N/A

N/A

N/A

 

7-Carrier Total

13.5

13.7

14.9

14.7

14.5

24,400

Low-Cost Airline System* Unit Costs

Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Costs (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Low-Cost Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)

1

Southwest

9.7

10.7

10.8

11.4

11.0

2,806

2

Frontier

9.1

9.9

11.1

9.1

11.0

316

3

AirTran

9.0

9.1

9.9

10.6

10.1

632

4

JetBlue

9.0

9.4

9.6

9.8

9.7

845

5

Spirit

7.8

7.9

8.2

8.8

9.2

176

6

Virgin America

8.7

8.6

9.5

9.4

9.2

173

7

Allegiant

7.6

8.3

9.2

8.7

8.9

138

 

7-Carrier Total

9.3

9.9

10.3

10.6

10.5

5,086

Regional Airline System* Unit Costs
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Unit Costs (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Regional Airlines

2nd Quarter 2009

3rd Quarter 2009

4th Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)

1

Horizon

17.7

18.0

19.9

20.0

19.6

163

2

American Eagle

16.5

16.2

19.1

19.6

17.1

457

3

Mesa

12.2

12.5

14.1

13.8

13.1

173

4

SkyWest

10.9

9.9

10.4

11.3

10.5

443

5

Atlantic Southeast

12.7

9.1

9.7

10.8

9.2

159

6

Comair

16.8

21.0

15.2

10.8

8.9

93

7

ExpressJet

6.9

6.7

7.1

6.7

6.8

214

 

7-Carrier Total

12.4

11.8

12.5

12.0

11.4

1,702

Fuel costs rise but not as high as 2008

The six network airlines spent 25.5% of their operating expenses in the second quarter of 2010 on fuel, compared with 22.1% in the second quarter of 2005.

Passenger Airline System* Fuel Costs Per Available Seat-Mile
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Fuel Cost Per ASM (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Airline Group

2nd Quarter 2005

2nd Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

Pct. Change 2Q 2005-2Q 2010

Percent Of Operating Costs for Fuel

2nd Quarter Fuel Expense $(Millions)

2005

2010

1

Network

2.76

2.93

3.43

3.69

33.7

22.1

25.5

6,218

2

Low-Cost

2.20

2.74

3.34

3.57

62.3

24.4

33.5

1,702

3

Regional

3.57

2.48

2.21

2.32

-35.0

27.8

20.4

347

 

21-Carrier Total

2.74

2.86

3.33

3.57

30.3

22.8

26.5

8,267

The network carriers spent USD 3.69 cents per available seat-mile (ASM) for fuel in the second quarter of 2010, up from USD 3.43 cents per ASM in the first quarter of 2010 and up from USD 2.93 cents per ASM in the second quarter of 2009.

Regional carriers American Eagle Airlines and Horizon Air and low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines spent the most for fuel per ASM while regional carriers ExpressJet, Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair spent the least.

ExpressJet's fuel expenses have been assumed by Continental for operations that the mainline carrier has directed its regional partner to fly. United Airlines has assumed similar expenses for its regional partner Atlantic Southeast and Delta has taken over fuel expenses for its regional subsidiary Comair.

Network Airline System* Fuel Costs Per Available Seat-Mile
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Fuel Cost Per ASM (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Network Airlines

2nd Quarter 2005

2nd Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

Pct. Change 2Q 2005-2Q 2010

Percent Of Operating Costs for Fuel

2nd Quarter Fuel Expense $(Millions)

2005

2010

1

Delta

2.66

3.85

3.69

3.87

45.5

21.4

26.9

1,958

2

American

2.72

3.13

3.61

3.87

42.3

23.8

27.0

1,487

3

United

2.72

2.11

3.36

3.86

41.9

21.9

25.8

1,198

4

US Airways

2.79

2.39

3.20

3.33

19.4

21.1

21.2

613

5

Continental

2.56

2.98

3.02

3.22

25.8

20.2

23.2

774

6

Alaska

2.68

2.26

2.93

3.07

14.6

24.2

25.5

188

7

Northwest

3.19

3.04

N/A

N/A

N/A

22.4

N/A

N/A

 

7-Carrier Total

2.76

2.93

3.43

3.69

33.7

22.1

25.5

6,218

Low-Cost Airline System* Fuel Costs Per Available Seat-Mile
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Fuel Cost Per ASM (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Low-Cost Airlines

2nd Quarter 2005

2nd Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

Pct. Change 2Q 2005-2Q 2010

Percent Of Operating Costs for Fuel

2nd Quarter Fuel Expense $(Millions)

2005

2010

1

Frontier

2.53

2.31

2.21

4.44

75.5

23.9

26.5

84

2

Allegiant

3.11

2.92

3.80

4.00

28.6

38.6

45.1

62

3

Southwest

1.69

2.84

3.62

3.66

116.6

21.7

33.3

933

4

AirTran

2.75

2.60

3.43

3.57

29.8

30.5

35.4

224

5

JetBlue

1.90

2.86

3.02

3.21

68.9

28.5

33.0

279

6

Spirit

2.80

2.24

2.96

3.20

14.3

29.3

34.6

61

7

Virgin America

N/A

2.19

2.94

3.11

N/A

N/A

33.8

59

 

7-Carrier Total

2.20

2.74

3.34

3.57

62.3

24.4

33.5

1,702

Regional Airline System* Fuel Costs Per Available Seat-Mile
Ranked by 2nd Quarter 2010 Fuel Cost Per ASM (Cents Per ASM)

2Q 2010 Rank

Regional Airlines

2nd Quarter 2005

2nd Quarter 2009

1st Quarter 2010

2nd Quarter 2010

Pct. Change 2Q 2005-2Q 2010

Percent Of Operating Costs for Fuel

2nd Quarter Fuel Expense $(Millions)

2005

2010

1

American Eagle

4.47

4.87

5.71

5.94

32.9

31.0

34.7

159

2

Horizon

2.78

3.15

4.10

4.24

52.5

17.8

21.7

35

3

Mesa

3.37

2.88

4.21

4.19

24.3

32.1

32.0

55

4

SkyWest

4.13

2.05

1.82

1.94

-53.0

31.1

18.4

82

5

ExpressJet

1.76

0.09

0.32

0.38

-78.4

15.3

5.5

12

6

Atlantic Southeast

4.07

2.81

0.09

0.23

-94.3

31.8

2.5

4

7

Comair

4.35

2.58

0.00

0.00

N/A

31.8

0.0

0

 

7-Carrier Total

3.57

2.48

2.21

2.32

-35.0

27.8

20.4

347


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