Airlines report strong profits for 2013 despite problems

Stable fuel prices helped improve the finances of the nation's major airlines in 2013.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Despite a harsh winter, a government shutdown and other problems, the nation’s largest airlines reported strong earnings for 2013.

The country’s largest airlines benefited from a steady growth in demand, stable fuel prices and a continuing rise in revenue from passenger fees to check luggage and reserve roomier seats, among other charges, according to financial reports.

Southwest Airlines, for example, reported Thursday net income of $754 million, or $1.05 per diluted share, for 2013, compared with $421 million, or 56 cents, for 2012.

United Airlines reported a net income of $571 million or $1.53 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $723 million, or $2.18, in 2012.


“Our goals for 2014 are to provide even more reliable operations, great customer service and materially better financial performance,” said Jeff Smisek, chairman, president and chief executive of United Airlines.

Delta ended the year with an overall net income of $2.7 billion in 2013 -- excluding special charges -- which was a $1.1-billion increase over 2012, according to financial statements released this week.

American Airlines, which finalized a merger agreement with US Airways last month, is scheduled to release its year-end financial report next week.

The airline industry benefited in 2013 from jet fuel prices that dropped an average of 5% in North America, according to the International Air Transport Assn., a trade group for the world’s airlines. Meanwhile, demand for premium seats, including first- and business-class seats, has grown by about 6%, according to the IATA.

The lower fuel costs and higher demand overcame thousands of delayed and canceled flights caused by harsh winter weather in the Midwest and East, a government shutdown in October, the fatal crash of Asiana Airlines in San Francisco in July and a fatal Nov. 1 shooting in a terminal that delayed flights at Los Angeles International Airport.

“Across the board this was an outstanding year and all credit for these achievements goes to the 78,000 Delta employees worldwide,” said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive.


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