The nation's 10 largest airlines earned a combined $152 million in profits in 2012, according to a report released Thursday by an airline trade group.
If that sounds rather meager, that's because it is.
It represents 21 cents of profit for every passenger who boarded a plane in the year, or a margin of 0.1%, according to an analysis by the industry trade group Airlines for America.
The profit margin is a 64% drop compared with 2011, when the same 10 carriers reported net income of $418 million or a 0.3% margin, according to the trade group.
The trade group blamed the razor-thin margin in 2012 on an increase in maintenance material, fuel and labor, among other costs.
The price of jet fuel reached a record-setting, yearlong average of $128 per barrel. Fuel now represents between 35% and 49% of total operating costs for the airlines.
The industry has received harsh criticism from passengers for charging fees for food, drinks, blankets and to check bags, but John Heimlich, chief economist for the trade group, said the fees generated enough revenue to keep the industry from coming out in the red last year.