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US airline shares fall on biz travel fears

US airline shares fall on biz travel fears

U.S. airlines have reported falling revenues Q3 this week, expressing little confidence in a sustainable turnaround, especially for business travel, and their shares have taken a corresponding dive.
American Airlines parent AMR Corp and Continental Airlines have fallen at the greatest level since April after posting Q3 losses and failing to reassure investors that business travel was recovering from the recession.
The losses followed similarly negative reports from UAL Corp.’s United Airlines and Southwest Airlines Co. earlier in the week.
AMR said its third-quarter net loss was $359 million, or $1.26 a share, compared with a profit of $31 million, or 12 cents a share, a year earlier.
The results included $94 million in charges tied to aircraft sales and grounding. Excluding charges, the 2009 third-quarter loss was $265 million, or 93 cents a share. Continental, the fourth-biggest U.S. airline, had a net loss of $18 million, or 14 cents.
Revenue at AMR plunged 20 percent to $5.13 billion, while Continental’s sales also dropped 20 percent, to $3.3 billion.
The fall in business travel is the most difficult to contend with because the fares are higher.

“The struggling economy continues to dampen the demand for air travel, making it difficult to fill our aircraft with customers willing to pay fares sufficient for us to make money,” Chief Executive Officer Gerard Arpey revealed to employees in a message. “We’ve reduced supply, but the demand for air travel—and business travel in particular—has fallen even more.”

American hopes to boost revenue with an international joint venture with British Airways and Spain’s Iberia. The Transportation Department is expected to rule soon on American’s request for antitrust immunity to let those carriers set prices and schedules together.

Meanwhile weak sales cut across all of Continental’s markets, with trans-Atlantic business particularly sluggish.

Like American Airlines, Continental were fortunate to benefit from falling jet fuel prices. President Jeff Smisek , described the financial results as disappointing, but said the airline had performed well with nearly 83 percent of its flights arriving on time, and in one stretch the airline went 32 days without a flight cancellation.