American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report said Thursday, Oct. 26, that in the third quarter average fares grew in every region for the first time in three years, and it issued strong unit revenue guidance for the fourth quarter.
Excluding items, the carrier earned $692 million, or $1.42 a share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had estimated $1.40. Revenue rose 2.7% to $10.9 billion.
Continued strong demand and improving yields drove the revenue increase, the carrier said, adding, "For the first time since the second quarter of 2014, yield grew in every geographic region, with notable strength in Latin America." Yield is the average fare paid per mile.
American became one of the winners in a quarter when Alaska Air Group Inc. (ALK) - Get Alaska Air Group, Inc. Report and United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report badly disappointed Wall Street.
American shares rose 3.5% in early trading.
Third-quarter total revenue per available seat mile rose 1.1%. Domestic TRASM grew just 0.1%. Atlantic TRASM fell 1.6% and Pacific TRASM fell 1.6%. However, TRASM grew 8.3% in Latin America.
American guided toward a fourth-quarter TRASM increase of between 2.5% and 4.5%, reflecting "continued improvement in demand for both business and leisure travel." The carrier expects its fourth-quarter pretax margin to be between 4.5% and 6.5%.
"We are playing the long game at American to create value in an industry that has been fundamentally transformed," said CEO Doug Parker in a prepared statement.
Premium economy fares, now available on 27 widebody aircraft, drove an average premium of more than $400 over main cabin fares, American said.
In the third quarter, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused more than 8,000 flight cancellations and reduced pretax earnings by an estimated $75 million. Excluding items, pretax earnings were $1.1 billion, down $369 million from the third quarter of 2016.
Cargo revenue was up 17% to $200 million due to a 19.2% increase in cargo ton miles. Capacity grew 1.6%.
On the cost side, cost per available seat excluding fuel and special items rose 4.5%. Total operating expenses grew 5.3% to $9.6 billion, reflecting a 13.3% increase in fuel costs and and 8% increase in salaries and benefits.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.