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BTS Releases First Quarter 2004 Airline Financial Data; Regional Passenger Airlines Report Highest Rate of Domestic Profit

BTS Releases First Quarter 2004 Airline Financial Data; Regional Passenger Airlines Report Highest Rate of Domestic Profit

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BTS 16-04
Roger Lotz
202-366-2246

Monday, June 14, 2004 - The seven largest regional airlines had the highest domestic operating margins ― an industry measure of profitability ― of any carrier groups during the first quarter of 2004, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation reported today in a release of preliminary data.

This group of regional carriers reported a domestic operating profit margin of 11.3 percent for the first quarter, above the profit margin of 1.8 percent reported by the seven largest low-cost air carriers and the 9.9 percent loss margin reported by seven largest network carriers (Table 1). Domestic operating margin measures operating profit or loss as a percentage of the airline's total domestic operating revenue.

The industry operating margin fell from the fourth quarter to the first quarter. Quarter-to-quarter changes may be affected by seasonal factors.

The selected low-cost carriers showed a slightly improved profit margin over the first quarter of 2003 while the selected network carriers reduced their operating loss margin from a year earlier.

The largest operating loss margins were reported by low-cost carrier ATA Airlines (Table 3) and by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both network carriers (Table 2). The top operating profit margins were reported by SkyWest Airlines, American Eagle Airlines and Air Wisconsin, all regional carriers (Table 4).

Network carriers operate a significant portion of their flights using at least one hub where connections are made for flights on a spoke system. Low-cost carriers are those that the industry generally recognizes as operating under a low-cost business model. Regional carriers provide service from small cities, using primarily regional jets to support the network carriers' hub and spoke systems. The selected groups consist of the seven carriers with the highest annual reported revenue in each group.

The regional carriers had the highest unit revenues with 15.3 cents per available seat mile (Table 5). These higher unit revenues generally reflect the shorter flights flown by these carriers. They average flights of 300 to 450 miles, compared to the 1,000-mile average stage length for the network carriers. Domestic unit revenue measures revenues against capacity by dividing domestic operating revenues by domestic available seat miles.

Overall, the highest unit revenues were reported by Atlantic Coast Airlines, Air Wisconsin and American Eagle (Table 8). The lowest unit revenues were reported by ATA, JetBlue Airways and America West Airlines (Table 7). US Airways reported the highest unit revenues among the selected network carriers (Table 6).

The regional carriers also reported the highest domestic unit costs - 13.6 cents per available seat mile (Table 9). The low-cost carriers reported the lowest unit costs - 7.6 cents per available seat mile. All of the selected low-cost carriers had lower unit costs than any of the regional or network carriers (Table 10, Table 11 and Table 12). Domestic unit cost measures expenses against capacity by dividing domestic operating expenses by domestic available seat miles.

The carriers with the highest unit costs were Atlantic Coast, US Airways and Air Wisconsin. The carriers with the lowest unit costs were JetBlue, ATA and America West.

The regional carriers also reported the highest domestic passenger revenue yields ― at 23.4 cents per revenue passenger mile, nearly twice the rate compared to the network and low-cost carriers (Table 13). Domestic passenger revenue yield measures passenger revenues against total travel by dividing domestic passenger revenues by domestic revenue passenger miles.

The top passenger revenue yields were reported by Atlantic Coast, American Eagle and Air Wisconsin (Table 16). The lowest passenger revenue yields were reported by JetBlue, ATA and America West (Table 15). Northwest reported the highest revenue yield of any network carrier (Table 14).

Table 1: Quarterly Domestic Operating profit/loss margin (in percent)

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Margin

(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2004 Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 (%) 2nd Quarter 2003 (%) 3rd Quarter 2003 (%) 4th Quarter 2003 (%) 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)
1 Regionals 8.6 14.2 15.3 14.1 11.3 201.7
2 Low-Cost 0.7 8.4 11.2 5.3 1.8 57.7
3 Network -20.5 -6.7 -2.7 -7.8 -9.9 -1,313.8
  21-Carrier Total -14.1 -2.1 1.4 -3.5 -5.8 -1,054.4

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2

Table 2: Quarterly Domestic Operating profit/loss margin (in percent)

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Margin

(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2004 Rank Network Carriers 1st Quarter 2003 (%) 2nd Quarter 2003 (%) 3rd Quarter 2003 (%) 4th Quarter 2003 (%) 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)
1 Northwest -12.0 0.2 5.4 -0.2 -2.9 -50.6
2 American -30.2 -13.9 -6.3 -13.8 -8.3 -251.7
3 Continental -19.1 8.8 -4.3 -8.5 -9.9 -125.9
4 US Airways -13.9 -7.1 -5.7 -4.8 -11.0 -157.6
5 Alaska -13.5 1.6 10.6 -4.2 -11.2 -49.6
6 United -30.3 -12.1 0.04 -8.9 -12.2 -294.5
7 Delta -12.4 -6.9 -6.0 -6.7 -13.1 -383.9
  Group Total -20.5 -6.7 -2.7 -7.8 -9.9 -1,313.8

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2

Table 3: Quarterly Domestic Operating profit/loss margin (in percent)

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2004 Rank Low Cost Carriers 1st Quarter 2003 (%) 2nd Quarter 2003 (%) 3rd Quarter 2003 (%) 4th Quarter 2003 (%) 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)
1 JetBlue 15.9 18.7 19.7 13.4 11.3 32.7
2 AirTran 3.3 13.1 11.1 8.7 4.3 10.3
3 Southwest 3.4 9.3 11.9 7.3 3.1 46.4
4 America West -9.4 2.4 8.0 1.0 2.0 11.1
5 Spirit 1.0 6.8 1.7 -2.9 1.9 2.6
6 Frontier -13.6 4.3 13.5 7.7 -4.0 -6.8
7 ATA -3.5 5.6 7.9 -6.5 -14.8 -38.6
  Group Total 0.7 8.4 11.2 5.3 1.8 57.7

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2

Table 4: Quarterly Domestic Operating profit/loss margin (in percent)

Regional Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2004 Rank Regional Carriers 1st Quarter 2003 (%) 2nd Quarter 2003 (%) 3rd Quarter 2003 (%) 4th Quarter 2003 (%) 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $(Millions)
1 American Eagle 9.6 16.2 15.7 20.6 16.3 53.8
2 SkyWest 9.7 11.4 15.3 12.1 13.7 34.9
3 Air Wisconsin 6.8 11.6 21.4 12.6 13.3 20.9
4 Express Jet 13.4 12.4 12.8 12.9 12.5 42.4
5 Atlantic Southeast 11.2 15.2 12.7 9.7 7.7 16.1
6 Comair 5.6 13.6 15.8 16.5 6.8 19.3
7 Atlantic Coast 1.5 18.3 16.6 11.5 6.7 14.2
  Group Total 8.6 14.2 15.3 14.1 11.3 201.7

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2

Table 5. Airline Domestic Unit Revenue (Cents Per Mile)

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Revenue

(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 Operating Revenue $(Millions)
1 Regionals 16.60 15.79 15.34 15.07 15.34 1,784.1
2 Network 10.60 11.38 11.39 11.43 11.43 13,312.0
3 Low-Cost 7.61 8.18 8.25 7.91 7.76 3,129.8
  21-Carrier Total 10.27 10.91 10.92 10.85 10.82 18,225.9

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

Table 6. Airline Domestic Unit Revenue (Cents Per Mile)

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)
1 US Airways 13.80 15.13 14.52 15.19 14.44 1,428.5
2 Northwest 10.47 11.31 11.41 11.65 12.68 1,769.9
3 Delta 11.92 13.02 12.57 12.46 12.31 2,940.5
4 United 9.16 9.80 11.19 10.73 10.84 2,422.4
5 American 10.05 10.58 10.35 10.44 10.29 3,033.9
6 Continental 9.92 10.65 9.95 10.25 10.27 1,275.8
7 Alaska 9.40 9.95 10.45 9.95 9.75 441.1
  Group Total 10.60 11.38 11.39 11.43 11.43 13,312.0

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

Table 7. Airline Domestic Unit Revenue (Cents Per Mile)

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 Operating Revenue $(Millions)
1 Frontier 7.80 8.66 9.79 9.18 9.53 173.0
2 AirTran 8.93 9.46 9.08 8.87 8.61 241.4
3 Spirit 7.64 7.84 7.73 7.81 8.11 131.1
4 Southwest 7.75 8.45 8.52 8.28 8.06 1,484.0
5 America West 7.51 8.13 8.29 7.90 7.79 550.9
6 JetBlue 7.36 7.48 7.37 7.00 6.84 289.0
7 ATA 6.51 6.80 6.86 6.06 5.93 260.4
  Group Total 7.61 8.18 8.25 7.91 7.76 3,129.8

Source: Form 41; Schedule p1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 8. Airline Domestic Unit Revenue (Cents Per Mile)

Regional Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $(Millions)
1 Atlantic Coast 18.54 19.99 18.37 18.31 18.55 212.1
2 Air Wisconsin 20.21 17.71 17.11 16.75 18.07 156.5
3 American Eagle 18.29 17.58 18.06 17.01 17.64 329.4
4 Express Jet 17.50 15.58 15.29 14.84 15.30 339.9
5 SkyWest 15.81 15.35 14.24 14.56 15.29 253.7
6 Atlantic Southeast 15.06 14.06 13.39 13.25 13.15 210.2
7 Comair 13.46 13.01 12.85 13.03 12.43 282.2
  Group Total 16.60 15.79 15.34 15.07 15.34 1,784.1

Source: Form 41; Schedule p1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 9. Airline Domestic Unit Costs (Cents per Mile)

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)
1 Regionals 15.16 13.54 12.99 12.94 13.61 1,582.5
2 Network 12.77 12.15 11.70 12.32 12.55 14,625.8
3 Low-Cost 7.56 7.49 7.33 7.49 7.62 3,072.1
  21-Carrier Total 11.72 11.15 10.77 11.22 11.44 19,280.4

Source: Form 41; Schedule p1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 10. Airline Domestic Unit Costs (Cents per Mile)

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 Operating Expenses $(Millions)
1 US Airways 15.72 16.20 15.35 15.91 16.04 1,586.1
2 Delta 13.40 13.93 13.32 13.29 13.92 3,324.4
3 Northwest 11.73 11.28 10.79 11.67 13.05 1,820.4
4 United 11.93 10.98 11.19 11.69 12.16 2,716.8
5 Continental 11.82 9.71 10.37 11.11 11.28 1,401.7
6 American 13.09 12.05 11.00 11.89 11.14 3,285.6
7 Alaska 10.67 9.79 9.34 10.37 10.85 490.7
  Group Total 12.77 12.15 11.70 12.32 12.55 14,625.8

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 11. Airline Domestic Unit Costs (Cents per Mile)

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)
1 Frontier 8.86 8.28 8.47 8.47 9.91 179.9
2 AirTran 8.57 8.22 8.07 8.10 8.24 231.1
3 Spirit 7.56 7.31 7.60 8.04 7.95 128.5
4 Southwest 7.49 7.67 7.50 7.67 7.81 1,437.6
5 America West 8.21 7.94 7.62 7.82 7.63 539.7
6 ATA 6.74 6.42 6.32 6.46 6.81 299.0
7 JetBlue 6.19 6.08 5.92 6.07 6.06 256.3
  Group Total 7.56 7.49 7.33 7.49 7.62 3,072.1

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 12. Airline Domestic Unit Costs (Cents per Mile)

Regionals
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Operating Expenses $(Millions)
1 Atlantic Coast 18.26 16.33 15.33 16.22 17.30 197.8
2 Air Wisconsin 18.84 15.66 13.45 14.65 15.66 135.7
3 American Eagle 16.53 14.73 15.23 13.50 14.76 275.7
4 Express Jet 15.15 13.65 13.32 12.92 13.39 297.5
5 SkyWest 14.27 13.60 12.49 12.79 13.19 218.8
6 Atlantic Southeast 13.38 11.92 11.68 11.97 12.15 194.1
7 Comair 12.71 11.24 10.81 10.88 11.58 262.9
  Group Total 15.16 13.54 12.99 12.94 13.61 1,582.5

Source: Form 41; Schedule p1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 13. Domestic Passenger Revenue Yield (Cents per Mile)

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)
1 Regionals 25.90 22.30 21.69 21.78 23.38 1,768.3
2 Network 12.24 11.96 11.75 12.36 12.60 10,424.7
3 Low-Cost 10.71 10.43 10.36 10.73 10.61 2,935.8
  21-Carrier Total 12.64 12.22 12.03 12.61 12.82 15,128.8

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 14. Domestic Passenger Revenue Yield (Cents per Mile)

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)
1 Northwest 12.80 13.15 12.85 13.77 15.47 1,540.2
2 US Airways 14.88 14.35 13.38 14.82 14.43 985.5
3 Continental 12.75 11.81 11.18 11.86 12.51 1,114.9
4 Alaska 12.47 12.44 12.74 12.72 12.44 387.7
5 Delta 12.26 11.81 11.40 11.97 12.08 2,040.3
6 American 12.25 11.72 11.46 12.20 12.03 2,516.1
7 United 10.45 10.63 11.27 11.25 11.41 1,840.0
  Group Total 12.24 11.96 11.75 12.36 12.60 10,424.7

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100: T2 Data.

Table 15. Domestic Passenger Revenue Yield (Cents per Mile)

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)
1 AirTran 12.81 12.50 12.00 12.33 12.12 232.7
2 Frontier 12.74 12.26 12.05 12.03 11.90 153.7
3 Southwest 11.69 11.41 11.44 12.24 11.76 1,389.8
4 Spirit 9.92 10.10 9.05 9.19 10.10 126.9
5 America West 10.12 9.69 9.72 9.72 9.99 509.5
6 ATA 7.87 7.81 8.18 8.25 8.34 243.6
7 JetBlue 8.85 8.49 8.14 8.17 8.30 279.6
  Group Total 10.71 10.43 10.36 10.73 10.61 2,935.8

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Table 16. Domestic Passenger Revenue Yield (Cents per Mile)

Regionals
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2004 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

Rank Group 1st Quarter 2003 2nd Quarter 2003 3rd Quarter 2003 4th Quarter 2003 1st Quarter 2004 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $(Millions)
1 Atlantic Coast 26.59 26.14 24.74 25.94 28.59 209.4
2 American Eagle 30.46 25.93 26.89 25.58 27.38 327.8
3 Air Wisconsin 28.29 22.13 22.04 23.02 24.13 148.3
4 Express Jet 28.65 21.98 21.53 21.05 23.96 339.7
5 SkyWest 22.89 21.24 19.90 20.49 21.50 250.7
6 Atlantic Southeast 23.58 20.49 19.89 19.91 20.94 210.2
7 Comair 22.33 19.43 18.82 19.09 19.70 282.2
  Group Total 25.90 22.30 21.69 21.78 23.38 1,768.3

Source: Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

Additional airline financial data can be found on the BTS website at TranStats, the Intermodal Transportation Database, at http://transtats.bts.gov. Click on "aviation", then on "Air Carrier Financial Reports (Form 41 Financial Data)", then click on "Schedule P-12."

Data are compiled from quarterly financial and monthly traffic reports filed with BTS by commercial air carriers. Financial and traffic data are preliminary and include data received by BTS as of June 8. Data are subject to revision. Revised data from fourth-quarter 2003 and previous quarters are posted on the BTS website at http://transtats.bts.gov. BTS has scheduled Sept. 20 for release of second-quarter 2004 data.