MIAMI – Four U.S. airlines reported financial results today, each with pandemic-related downsides, including a steep drop in revenues, but optimistic for traffic recovery.

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

American Airlines


American Airlines (AA) reported a first-quarter net loss of US$1.3 bn on a 53 percent dive in revenues (US$4 bn).

However, excluding US$1.95 bn in special credits that included funding from the federal Payroll Support Program (PSP), the net loss was US$2.7 bn. The quarterly load factor was 59.5 percent.

The world’s largest airline reports total liquidity of US$17.3 bn.

“Looking forward, with the momentum underway from the first quarter, we see signs of continued recovery in demand.” Doug Parker, American Airlines CEO Click To Tweet

“We remain confident the network enhancements, customer-focused improvements and efficiency measures we’ve put into place will ensure American is well-positioned for the recovery.”

AA incorporated more than US $1.3 bn of permanent cost reductions into its 2021 plans, including deferring and converting five Boeing 787-8 aircraft to the 787-9 models and deferring deliveries of new 737 MAX aircraft to 2023 and 2024.

Photo : Daniel Gorun/Airways

Southwest Airlines


Southwest Airlines (WN) eked out a small net income of US$116m but only because it received US$1.2 bn from the federal Payroll Support Program. Excluding these special items, the first quarter’s net loss was US$1 bn.

Revenues were US$2.1bn., down 51.5 percent year-over-year. The load factor was 64.3 percent. Southwest ended the quarter with US$15.3bn in liquidity.

“In (the) first quarter, we benefited from temporary cost relief as a result of PSP Extension proceeds, which offset a portion of salaries, wages, and benefits expenses,” said CEO Gary C. Kelly.

“…We remain grateful for this much-needed federal payroll support on the heels of substantial losses in 2020." Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines CEO Click To Tweet

Regarding the payroll support from the federal government, the CEO said it has allowed WN “to preserve its 50-year history without involuntary layoffs or furloughs, an achievement unprecedented in the U.S. airline industry.”

He added, “While the pandemic is not over, we believe the worst is behind us, in terms of the severity of the negative impact on travel demand. Vaccinations are on the rise, and COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States are down significantly from their peak in January 2021. As a result, we are experiencing steady weekly improvements in domestic leisure bookings, which began in mid-February 2021.”

Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Alaska Air Group


Alaska Air Group (AS) reported a net loss of US$131m – actually a loss of US$436m when accounting for the federal PSP program.

Alaska, which joined the oneworld alliance on the last day of the quarter, recorded revenues of US$797m, down 51 percent from a year earlier. The group’s load factor, including its Horizon Air subsidiary, was 51.9%. Liquidity was US$5.3bn.

"We're a big company, but still small enough that each person's work makes a difference." Ben Minicucci, Alaska Air Group CEO Click To Tweet

“This has been a long road, and I want to thank the employees at Alaska and Horizon for providing great guest service and everything they’ve done to get through the last challenging year and help us achieve positive cash flow in March,” said the new CEO, Ben Minicucci.

“We’re now laser-focused on a return to profitability and growth, with aggressive cost control, optimal productivity across all our workgroups, and the operational and financial discipline that Alaska is known for.” 

Spirit Airlines N913NK Airbus A320Neo. Photo: Brad Tisdel/Airways

Spirit Airlines


ULCC carrier Spirt (NK) rounded out today’s earnings reports with a net loss of $US112m. Revenues were $US461.3, a decrease of 40.2 percent year over year as a result of continued negative impacts to demand for air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The load factor for the first quarter 2021 was 72.1 percent on a year-over-year capacity decrease of 26.9 percent. Spirit reported liquidity of US$1.9bn.

"…we continue to believe we will be among the first U.S. carriers to reach sustained profitability." Ted Christie, Spirit Airlines CEO Click To Tweet

“We were very pleased to see how well both our domestic and international network performed as demand strengthened in the last few weeks of the quarter. This strength, along with improvement in forward bookings, drove positive cash from operations for the full first quarter 2021 even when excluding the payroll support program funds received,” said president and CEO Ted Christie.


Featured image: Luke Ayers/Airways