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Atlas Air

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has made a fool out of me.

The company reported earnings Wednesday and yes, I was just as surprised as

First Call

was, as the carrier posted earnings of 41 cents per share on record revenues of $121 million. This exceeded the consensus estimate of 35 cents per share. Net income for the quarter ended Dec. 31 was $9.1 million, while operating income was $27.8 million and revenues hit $120.9 million. A year earlier, the carrier posted net income of $13.4 million, or 60 cents per share. Operating income for that quarter was $29.9 million and revenues were $104.7 million.

Okay, so the company did better than I had expected. Hit me with wet noodles. And make those wet



My three main concerns about Atlas remain:

How would the situation in Asia affect the company?

Has it found a replacement president, and/or come to terms with management issues?

What is the status in terms of Atlas securing new customers for the added capacity (four new 747-400 freighters) it has coming on board this year?

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On the Asian issue, the company is saying that only one of its customers,

Thai Air

, finds itself in a situation where the country's financial situation could be a factor. The company also pointed out again that Atlas contracts are all negotiated in dollars. Yes, as we have mentioned in the past, this is an advantage to Atlas. And, I guess as long as Asian currencies don't drop off the cliff, this will be no problem. The company also pointed out that its contracts are noncancelable. Yes, well, that's fine as long as the airline that is paying the bills is still solvent.

However, I think the situation in Asia has stabilized in terms of how much Atlas might or might not be affected. And it appears the airline, according to CFO Richard Shuyler, is faring just fine in terms of its Asian customers. Shuyler said in the company conference call yesterday that the current quarter shows no signs of any slowdown in that area. Period. Pretty strong words. So -- we give Atlas the thumbs-up nod on this one.

In terms of management issues, there was no word on a replacement president, but the airline did report about two weeks ago that its pilots, whom I felt would probably vote for representation by the

Air Line Pilots Association

, did not. This is always good news to the cost-conscious bean counters, not to mention us profit-hungry investors. So, on this one, things are looking up.

And finally -- to that all-important question of mine -- who


the new customers going to be for all that new metal coming on board?

Shuyler tap-danced on that one. No new business to report as of yet. He said that "negotiations were going well" and that the company hoped to announce new placements in the next 60 days. However -- the company also said it had asked


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to speed up delivery of another 747-400 to ensure delivery before year-end.

Okay -- we have to go on faith on this one. While I had heard the company was having difficulty securing new customers, the assumption has to be that Atlas would only request the additional aircraft if it felt it had some real live ones on the hook.

Judging by the carrier's 12.6% gain yesterday, and its rise of around 5% today, apparently Wall Street also has faith in its ability to not let the big ones get away.


Wing Tips Notebook

Speaking of WRONG, yes, tie me to the post one more time. I was wrong when I flapped my wings about the possible ramifications of a

Midwest Express



American Eagle

codeshare alliance

last week. (American Eagle is a unit of

American Airlines


.) My first reaction was very negative to this agreement -- but after a slew of emails and another look, I agree. This does not represent a threat to the "brand value" of MEH. The overall effect of adding the 40 additional destinations is positive. Nothing different than MEH's passengers linking into their current


commuter operation.

Holly Hegeman, based in Dallas, pilots the Wing Tips column every Thursday for This is a special "extra" column. You can usually find Holly, publisher of PlaneBusiness Banter, buzzing around her airline industry Web site at Holly welcomes your feedback at