Pricier airfare and booming passenger demand pushed American Airlines to record revenue levels for the second quarter, even though jet fuel and other costs soared.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines said it will bring in a record $ 13.4 billion in revenue for the April to June quarter that just ended, pre-reporting results ahead of the full release next Thursday, a practice that has become more common among carriers with uneven results of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s 12% better than during the second quarter of 2019, the pre-pandemic measure that airlines have been hoping to get back to during more than two years of uneven flying.
But even though demand is there from travel-hungry passengers, airlines have struggled to get flying back to pre-pandemic levels as they face staffing shortages from pilot retirements and production delays on new airplanes from Boeing. Some 2.49 million passengers went through airport security checkpoints on July 1, the busiest day in more than two years, but that was still about 11% lower than the peak days of the summer of 2019, mostly because airlines are flying about 10% fewer flights .
Both revenue and pretax income numbers are better than American Airlines expected when it last put out estimates at the beginning of June. Over the last three months, passengers have proved eager to fly again no matter what the price, pushing airfares 30% to 40% over pre-pandemic levels.
Airlines are still less profitable than they were before the pandemic, according to industry trade group Airlines for America, even though planes are about as full as they were in 2019.
Airlines, including American, have had their own struggles getting back to 2019 levels of flying despite the industry getting more than $ 50 billion in government stimulus to keep employees on payrolls during the worst of the pandemic.
American Airlines had about 5,000 fewer employees in April than it did during the same month in 2019.
American expects to bring in a pretax profit of $ 585 million, a number that would have been even higher if it hadn’t ended up paying $ 4 to $ 4.05 a gallon for jet fuel, more than double the price it paid a year ago and more than triple what it paid in 2020.
American’s second-quarter revenue, mostly from ticket sales, is going to be about 12% higher than it was in 2019, a record year for revenue performance that hasn’t been seen since then because of the worldwide health pandemic that hampered travel and airline performance. Before this stretch, American has only seen one month where it even matched pre-pandemic revenue numbers, and that was in the spring break month of March.