American Airlines posts narrow fourth-quarter profit

American Airlines on Thursday posted a $19 million profit for the last three months of 2023, topping Wall Street estimates on the top and bottom lines.

Shares of the company popped around 7% Thursday morning.

Here’s how American performed in the last quarter of 2023 compared to Wall Street estimates compiled by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: 29 cents adjusted vs. 10 cents per share expected.
  • Revenue: $13.06 billion vs. $13.02 billion expected.

For the last three months of 2023, American Airlines reported net income of $19 million, down nearly 98% from $803 million the year prior. Earnings per share decreased to 3 cents from $1.14 in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Adjusting for one-time items, including the impact of a new labor agreement with the airline’s pilots, American earned 29 cents per share.

In its third-quarter earnings report, the airline had estimated it would break even for the December period.

“We’re really pleased with the results, we closed out the year strong,” CEO Robert Isom told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau Thursday. “At American, we’re focused on reliability, profitability and really strengthening our balance sheet. We’ve done all of those… I think that we’re going to have a really busy first and second quarter, and I think the time to buy is right now for travel. It’s going to be a busy year.”

Looking ahead, American said it expects a net loss per share of between 15 cents and 35 cents, adjusted, for the first quarter of 2024. Costs, excluding fuel are expected to rise between 2% and 4% for the period, with flying capacity up between 6.5% and 8.5%.

For the full year 2024, American expects adjusted earnings per share of $2.25 to $3.25 with flying capacity up mid-single digits over 2023.

In a letter to American team members, Isom said the strength of the business meant all U.S. and Canada-based employees will receive a profit-sharing payment in March.

The earnings report comes on a a busy day for the airline industry, with Southwest and Alaska also reporting fourth-quarter earnings Thursday. United Airlines on Monday posted higher-than-expected earnings and revenue and a sunny forecast for 2024.

Carriers have been navigating tricky winter weather in the early weeks of January, but American said it achieved its best-ever on-time departures over the December holidays.

Industry eyes have been on the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane of late after that aircraft model was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month following an Alaska Airlines midflight incident.

American doesn’t have any of the planes in its fleet, but it does have the more common 737 Max 8, with 20 more planned for this year, according to Isom. However, late Wednesday, the FAA said it would halt Boeing’s ability to increase 737 Max production, which could hit future deliveries of aircraft.

“We have a safety management system that we worked on with the FAA, and in that, we try to identify anything that may be an issue or cause for further investigation – and that even holds true when it comes to taking aircraft deliveries,” Isom told CNBC on “Squawk Box.” “We need all of our partners… to do their job, and that’s producing a quality product.”

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