In the fourth quarter, the carrier reported profit, excluding items, of $1.3 billion or $2 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated $1.97. Revenue fell 5.2% to $9.6 billion; annalysts had estimated $9.4 billion.
For the full year, American's net profit was $6.3 billion or $9.12 a share. "That's more than American has ever made in its history, and indeed represents the highest profits of any airline in our industry's history," said CEO Doug Parker in a letter to employees.
In premarket trading Friday, American shares were up 52 cents to $38.66.
"The bears will focus on Latin America PRASM declining roughly (17%) vs. our (10%) forecast," wrote CRT Capital Markets analyst Mike Derchin in a note.
But Derchin said, "Overall, the positives far outweigh the negatives, in our view." Among them, he said, "Domestic and regional PRASM came in better than expected in 4Q15, reflecting capacity discipline."
On the cost side, cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and special charges rose 6.3% to 9.22 cents.
American paid $1.1 billion to buy back 25.6 million shares during the fourth quarter, bringing its full-year buyback total to $3.6 billion for 85.1 million shares. It also invested $5.3 billion in new aircraft during the year. American will pay a dividend of 10 cents a share on Feb. 24.
During the year, American hired more than 12,000 new employees, Parker said.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.