American Airlines ended 2009 with a loss and 2010 could have a rocky start if the carrier loses a key partner in the Asian market.
The parent of American says it lost $344 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $1.5 billion for all of 2009 as traffic fell and many business travelers stayed home or bought cheaper tickets in the weak economy.
Excluding special items, including a tax gain, AMR said Wednesday it would have lost $415 million, or $1.25 per share, in the fourth quarter. Analysts, who usually exclude items from their calculations, expected a loss of $1.23 per share.
Revenue fell 7.4 percent, to $5.06 billion, slightly higher than analysts' forecast of $5.03 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
Now that the fourth-quarter accounting is done, investors will turn their attention to Japan, where American and parent AMR Corp. are scrambling to hold on to a valuable partnership with Japan Airlines.
JAL filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, and reports in the Japanese press say the airline wants to dump American and form a partnership with Delta Air Lines. That would mean a big decline in revenue for American.
American is also waiting to learn whether U.S. regulators will approve antitrust immunity for an international joint venture with British Airways and other carriers. A decision had been expected last fall, but despite the delay, Arpey said Wednesday that American still expects its request to be approved.
For all of 2009, AMR lost $1.47 billion, or $4.99 per share, compared with a loss of $2.12 billion, or $8.16 per share, in 2008. Revenue tumbled 16.2 percent to $19.92 billion, as $3.85 billion in revenue vanished with slow demand for travel. Spending on fuel fell 38 percent, however, to $5.55 billion -- a savings of $4.46 billion -- as prices fell from record levels in 2008.
AMR, based in Fort Worth, also owns the American Eagle commuter airline.