HOUSTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/—Continental Airlines
(NYSE: CAL) today reported a record systemwide March load factor of
79.4 percent, 4.1 points above last year`s load factor. Continental reported
a record domestic March load factor of 77.5 percent and a record international
March load factor of 82.8 percent. Easter falling in March this year, in
contrast to mid-April in 2001, contributed to the load factor increases over
Continental reported an on-time arrival rate of 84.8 percent and a
completion factor of 99.9 percent for March 2002.
In March 2002, Continental flew 5.4 billion revenue passenger miles (RPMs)
systemwide and 6.7 billion available seat miles (ASMs), resulting in a traffic
decrease of 5.4 percent and a capacity decrease of 10.4 percent versus
March 2001. Domestic traffic was 3.3 billion RPMs, down 4.9 percent from
March 2001, and domestic capacity was 4.2 billion ASMs, down 8.8 percent from
March last year.
Lower year-over-year yields, mitigated somewhat by higher load factors,
resulted in a decrease in estimated systemwide passenger revenue per available
seat mile (RASM) of between 6 and 8 percent for March 2002, as compared to
March 2001. For February 2002, RASM declined 11.0 percent as compared to
February 2001. Preliminary data indicates that the company achieved
profitability for the first time since September 11 during the month of March.
The company expects, however, to report a significant loss for the first
quarter of 2002.
Continental expects to report that it ended the first quarter with a cash
balance of approximately $1.2 billion, which includes $147 million of restricted cash related to a pre-funded aircraft financing.
“We are pleased that we achieved profitability in March but we continue to
be concerned about higher fuel prices and RASM weakness due to capacity
increases by many of our competitors,” said Jeff Misner, Sr. Vice President
and Chief Financial Officer.
While recent monthly RASM performance trends have improved, those trends
will need to continue to improve for Continental to attain profitability in
the second quarter of 2002. The estimated year-over-year RASM needed to break
even for the second quarter, assuming successful completion of the ExpressJet
initial public offering, is a decrease of approximately 1 percent or less on a
year-over-year basis for the full quarter, or a year-over-year RASM decrease
of 8 percent in April, an increase of 2 percent in May and an increase of
4 percent in June. These estimates are based on an expected increase in CASM
of two percent holding fuel rate constant and assuming an average fuel price
of 71 cents. Based on current fuel price and revenue trends, the company`s
ability to achieve profitability in the second quarter will be challenging.
Continental said it expects to receive a federal income tax refund of
approximately $39 million in the second quarter. This amount represents
certain alternative minimum tax payments previously paid by Continental and
due to be refunded under recent legislation.
Continental Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of Continental Airlines,
reported a load factor of 63.1 percent for March 2002, 0.6 points above last
year`s March load factor. Continental Express flew 315.7 million RPMs and
500.2 million ASMs in March 2002, resulting in a traffic increase of
13.7 percent and a capacity increase of 12.6 percent versus March 2001.
Please note that the foregoing contains forward-looking statements that
are not limited to historical facts, but reflect the company`s current
beliefs, expectations or intentions regarding future events. Actual results
could differ materially from those described in the forward-looking
statements. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual
results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are
contained in the company`s form 10K and other securities filings with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, such as terrorist attacks and the
resulting regulatory developments and costs, our recent operating losses and
special charges, our high leverage and significant financing needs, our
historical operating results, the significant cost of aircraft fuel, labor
costs, certain tax matters, the Japanese economy and currency risk,
competition and industry conditions, regulatory matters and the seasonal
nature of the airline business.