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First Quarter 2005 Airline Financial Data: Regional Passenger Airlines Report Domestic Profit; Network and Low-Cost Carriers Report Losses

First Quarter 2005 Airline Financial Data: Regional Passenger Airlines Report Domestic Profit; Network and Low-Cost Carriers Report Losses

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BTS 27-05
Dave Smallen
202-366-5568

Monday, June 20, 2005 - The seven largest regional airlines reported a domestic operating profit margin — an industry measure of profitability — while the network and low-cost carriers reported loss margins during the first quarter of 2005, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) of the U.S. Department of Transportation reported today in a release of preliminary data.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that this group of regional carriers reported a domestic operating profit margin of 8.5 percent for the first quarter, compared to the 4.3 percent loss margin reported by the seven largest low-cost air carriers and the 9.9 percent loss margin reported by the seven network carriers (Table 1). Domestic operating margin measures operating profit or loss as a percentage of the airline's total domestic operating revenue.

The domestic passenger airline industry operating margin, represented by the 21 selected carriers, improved from a 12.2 percent loss margin in the fourth quarter of 2004 to a 6.9 percent loss margin in the first quarter of 2005. Quarter-to-quarter changes may be affected by seasonal factors.

The selected low-cost carriers reported a 5.9 percentage point worsening in profit margin from the first quarter of 2004, while the selected network carriers experienced no change in their operating loss margin from a year earlier.

The largest percentage operating loss margins were reported by low-cost carrier ATA Airlines (Table 3) – the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 26 – and network carriers Alaska Airlines and US Airways (Table 2). The top operating profit margins were all reported by regional airlines – American Eagle Airlines, Mesa Air Group and Pinnacle Airlines (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 in each group with the highest reported revenue in the most recent 12-month period.

The regional carriers had the highest unit revenues with 14.5 cents per available seat mile (Table 5). These higher unit revenues generally reflect the shorter flights and smaller aircraft flown by these carriers. Regional carriers 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 regional carriers American Eagle, SkyWest Airlines and Pinnacle (Table 8). The lowest unit revenues were reported by low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways and ATA. (Table 7). Continental Airlines reported the highest unit revenues among the selected network carriers (Table 6).

The regional carriers reported the highest domestic unit costs – 13.3 cents per available seat mile barely exceeding the network carriers' 13.2 cents per available seat mile (Table 9). The low-cost carriers reported the lowest unit costs – 8.8 cents per available seat mile. 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 low-cost carrier ATA (Table 12) and network carriers Northwest Airlines and Continental (Table 10). The carriers with the lowest unit costs were low-cost carriers JetBlue, Southwest and AirTran Airways (Table 11).

The regional carriers also reported the highest domestic passenger revenue yields ― 21.1 cents per revenue passenger mile (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 regional carriers American Eagle, Pinnacle and SkyWest (Table 16). The lowest passenger revenue yields were reported by low-cost carriers ATA, JetBlue and America West Airlines (Table 15). Northwest reported the highest revenue yield of any network carrier (Table 14). Delta Air Lines' and United Airlines' passenger yields have lagged behind the other network carriers for the past four quarters. These airlines have developed internal low-fare airlines within the operational structure of the mainline carrier marketed specifically to operate in leisure markets - Delta created "Song" and United started "Ted."

Additional airline financial data is posted on the BTS website at TranStats, the Intermodal Transportation Database, 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 14. Data are subject to revision.

Data from the fourth quarter of 2004 and previous quarters are posted on the BTS website at http://transtats.bts.gov. BTS will release second quarter financial data and revised data from the first quarter on Sept. 19.

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

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank   1st Quarter 2004 (%) 2nd Quarter 2004 (%) 3rd Quarter 2004 (%) 4th Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter 2005 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $ (Millions)
1 Regional Carriers 11.0 11.5 11.0 10.4 8.5 177.0
2 Low-Cost Carriers 1.6 7.1 3.6 -11.5 -4.3 -155.7
3 Network Carriers -9.9 -2.8 -7.6 -15.8 -9.9 -1,386.4
  21-Carrier Total -5.9 0.3 -3.8 -12.2 -6.9 -1,365.1

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2

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

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Network Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 2nd Quarter 2004 (%) 3rd Quarter 2004 (%) 4th Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter 2005 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $ (Millions)
1 American -8.30 -4.60 -8.20 -14.00 -4.70 -141.7
2 United -12.20 -4.70 -7.70 -22.70 -6.90 -176.1
3 Northwest -2.90 4.30 1.60 -11.70 -10.40 -198.8
4 Continental -9.90 -4.40 -7.00 -15.40 -12.00 -202.3
5 Delta -13.10 -6.30 -13.00 -17.70 -13.60 -401.5
6 US Airways -11.00 2.00 -14.30 -10.10 -13.90 -191.1
7 Alaska -11.20 1.00 6.90 -11.70 -16.00 -74.9
  Seven-Carrier Total -9.90 -2.80 -7.60 -15.80 -9.90 -1,386.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2

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

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Low-Cost Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 2nd Quarter 2004 (%) 3rd Quarter 2004 (%) 4th Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter 2005 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $ (Millions)
1 JetBlue 11.3 14.1 7.1 3.7 6.9 25.8
2 America West 2.0 2.6 -4.7 -6.9 6.6 47.9
3 Southwest 3.1 11.5 11.4 7.2 6.4 106.2
4 Frontier -8.0 -3.8 -0.3 -7.3 -1.3 -2.8
5 AirTran 4.3 11.3 -4.9 1.3 -3.2 -9.4
6 Spirit 2.0 -3.0 -13.3 -31.6 -3.8 -5.3
7 ATA -14.8 -9.1 -12.5 -187.0 -185.0 -318.3
  Seven-Carrier Total 1.6 7.1 3.6 -11.5 -4.3 -155.7

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2

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

Regional Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Margin
(Operating Profit/Loss as Percent of Total Operating Revenue)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Regional Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 (%) 2nd Quarter 2004 (%) 3rd Quarter 2004 (%) 4th Quarter 2004 (%) 1st Quarter 2005 (%) 1st Quarter Operating Profit/Loss $ (Millions)
1 American Eagle 16.3 15.5 14.1 14.9 13.5 54.6
2 Mesa 4.6 11.1 7.9 11.9 13.2 32.6
3 Pinnacle 10.7 11.1 11.0 9.7 10.3 20.1
4 Sky West 13.7 13.2 12.3 11.3 10.1 34.4
5 Express Jet 12.5 12.6 12.4 13.3 9.1 30.9
6 Comair 6.9 7.9 8.1 -0.2 1.6 4.9
7 Atlantic Southeast 7.7 6.7 9.0 9.4 -0.2 -0.5
  Seven-Carrier Total 11.0 11.5 11.0 10.4 8.5 177.0

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2

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

Passenger Airlines by Group
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank   1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Regional Carriers 14.6 14.1 14.2 14.6 14.5 2,085.8
2 Network Carriers 11.5 12.1 11.7 11.8 12.0 13,979.0
3 Low-Cost Carriers 7.8 8.5 8.0 7.9 8.4 3,591.1
  21-Carrier Total 10.8 11.4 11.0 11.0 11.3 19,655.9

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Network Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Continental 10.3 10.6 10.3 13.2 14.1 1,684.3
2 Northwest 12.7 14.1 14.1 13.7 13.7 1,907.5
3 US Airways 14.4 16.3 14.1 13.7 13.0 1,378.9
4 Delta 12.3 12.7 12.3 11.9 12.0 2,957.2
5 United 10.8 11.4 11.4 11.3 11.4 2,540.8
6 American 10.4 10.7 10.1 10.2 10.8 3,043.3
7 Alaska 9.8 10.3 10.8 9.9 9.9 467.0
  Seven-Carrier Total 11.5 12.1 11.7 11.8 12.0 13,979.0

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Low-Cost Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Frontier 9.3 9.3 9.5 10.2 11.1 218.5
2 America West 8.2 8.5 8.1 8.0 10.4 726.5
3 Spirit 8.1 7.9 7.6 7.2 8.5 137.0
4 AirTran 8.6 9.5 8.2 8.4 8.5 299.7
5 Southwest 8.1 9.1 8.6 8.2 8.2 1,663.5
6 JetBlue 6.8 6.9 6.6 6.7 7.2 374.3
7 ATA 5.9 6.6 6.5 5.9 5.8 171.9
  Seven-Carrier Total 7.8 8.5 8.0 7.9 8.4 3,591.1

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Regional Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Revenue
(Domestic Operating Revenue Per Available Seat Mile)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Regional Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Revenue $ (Millions)
1 American Eagle 17.6 16.9 16.5 17.2 17.2 403.6
2 Sky West 15.3 15.4 15.1 15.5 15.3 340.3
3 Pinnacle 16.3 15.4 14.5 14.5 15.1 194.7
4 Comair 12.4 12.5 13.3 13.3 14.1 310.6
5 Express Jet 15.3 14.3 14.5 14.4 13.9 338.6
6 Atlantic Southeast 13.2 12.9 13.6 14.7 13.6 250.4
7 Mesa 12.3 11.6 11.7 12.4 12.2 247.6
  Seven-Carrier Total 14.6 14.1 14.2 14.6 14.5 2,085.8

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; 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 2005 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank   1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Expense $ (Millions)
1 Regional Carriers 13.0 12.5 12.6 13.1 13.3 1,908.8
2 Network Carriers 12.6 12.4 12.6 13.7 13.2 15,365.4
3 Low Cost Carriers 7.7 7.9 7.8 8.8 8.8 3,746.7
  21-Carrier Total 11.4 11.3 11.4 12.4 12.1 21,020.9

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41, Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Network Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Expense $ (Millions)
1 Continental 11.3 11.0 11.0 15.3 15.8 1,886.6
2 Northwest 13.1 13.5 13.9 15.4 15.1 2,106.3
3 US Airways 16.0 16.0 16.1 15.0 14.8 1,569.9
4 Delta 13.9 13.5 13.9 14.1 13.7 3,358.8
5 United 12.2 11.9 12.3 13.9 12.2 2,716.8
6 Alaska 10.9 10.2 10.1 11.1 11.4 541.9
7 American 11.2 11.2 10.9 11.6 11.3 3,185.1
  Seven-Carrier Total 12.6 12.4 12.6 13.7 13.2 15,365.4

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Low-cost Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Expenses $ (Millions)
1 ATA 6.8 7.2 7.3 16.9 16.4 490.0
2 Frontier 10.1 9.7 9.5 10.9 11.3 221.3
3 America West 8.0 8.3 8.5 8.6 9.7 678.3
4 Spirit 8.0 8.2 8.6 9.5 8.8 142.2
5 AirTran 8.2 8.5 8.6 8.3 8.7 309.1
6 Southwest 7.8 8.1 7.6 7.6 7.7 1,557.3
7 JetBlue 6.1 5.9 6.1 6.5 6.7 348.3
  Seven-Carrier Total 7.7 7.9 7.8 8.8 8.8 3,746.7

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

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

Regionals
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Unit Costs
(Domestic Operating Expenses per Available Seat Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Regional Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Operating Expenses $ (Millions)
1 American Eagle 14.8 14.3 14.2 14.6 14.8 349.0
2 Comair 11.6 11.5 12.2 13.3 13.8 305.7
3 Sky West 13.2 13.4 13.2 13.8 13.7 305.8
4 Atlantic Southeast 12.2 12.0 12.3 13.3 13.7 250.9
5 Pinnacle 14.6 13.7 12.9 13.1 13.5 174.7
6 Express Jet 13.4 12.6 12.7 12.5 12.7 307.7
7 Mesa 11.8 10.3 10.8 10.9 10.6 215.0
  Seven-Carrier Total 13.0 12.5 12.6 13.1 13.3 1,908.8

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; 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 2005 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank   1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Regional Carriers 22.4 19.3 19.5 20.7 21.1 2,075.8
2 Network Carriers 12.4 11.9 11.1 11.3 11.6 10,067.7
3 Low-Cost Carriers 10.6 10.2 9.7 10.2 10.6 3,209.3
  21-Carrier Total 12.6 12.0 11.4 11.8 12.1 15,352.8

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Network Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Network Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Northwest 13.8 13.4 12.8 12.8 12.7 1,348.8
2 US Airways 14.4 14.0 12.4 12.8 12.4 946.1
3 Continental 12.5 11.9 11.1 11.4 11.9 1,124.2
4 Alaska 12.4 12.4 12.3 11.9 11.9 407.5
5 American 12.0 11.5 10.6 11.0 11.6 2,506.3
6 Delta 12.1 11.5 10.6 10.9 11.0 2,027.2
7 United 11.4 10.8 10.1 10.4 10.8 1,707.6
  Seven-Carrier Total 12.4 11.9 11.1 11.3 11.6 10,067.7

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data.

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

Low-Cost Carriers
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Low-Cost Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $ (Millions)
1 Frontier 11.8 11.0 10.7 11.3 12.2 183.6
2 AirTran 12.1 12.2 11.3 11.7 11.8 288.4
3 Southwest 11.8 11.2 11.1 11.7 11.7 1,547.1
4 Spirit 10.1 10.1 8.8 9.4 10.5 132.0
5 America West 10.0 9.5 8.6 9.2 10.0 545.4
6 ATA 8.3 8.2 7.7 7.6 8.4 155.0
7 JetBlue 8.3 7.9 7.6 7.7 8.1 357.8
  Seven-Carrier Total 10.6 10.2 9.7 10.2 10.6 3,209.3

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics; Form 41; Schedule P1.2. T100; T2 Data

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

Regionals
Ranked by 1st Quarter 2005 Domestic Revenue Yield
(Domestic Passenger Revenue per Revenue Passenger Mile in cents)

Excel | CSV

1Q 2005 Rank Regional Carriers 1st Quarter 2004 2nd Quarter 2004 3rd Quarter 2004 4th Quarter 2004 1st Quarter 2005 1st Quarter Passenger Revenue $ (Millions)
1 American Eagle 27.4 23.8 23.4 25.0 25.9 400.7
2 Pinnacle 25.9 20.7 20.0 21.7 23.6 192.8
3 Sky West 21.5 20.3 19.5 21.1 20.6 335.6
4 Comair 19.7 17.6 19.1 19.7 21.9 310.6
5 Atlantic Southeast 20.9 18.1 19.2 20.6 19.4 250.4
6 Express Jet 24.0 19.5 19.4 19.7 19.4 338.4
7 Mesa 18.5 15.6 15.6 17.4 17.9 247.3
  Seven-Carrier Total 22.4 19.3 19.5 20.7 21.1 2,075.8

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