Updated from 10:56 a.m. ESTAMR ( AMR), the parent of American Airlines, reported a $17 million profit in the fourth quarter, concluding its third consecutive profitable quarter and its first profitable year since 2000. The world's largest airline company earned 7 cents a share. Revenue was $5.4 billion, up 4.4%. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had expected a loss of 13 cents a share on revenue of $5.5 billion. In the fourth quarter a year earlier, the airline reported a net loss of $600 million. For the full year 2006, American had a $231 million profit, compared with a loss of $857 million for 2005. American's profit was a surprise after the airline warned last month that fourth-quarter costs would rise more than expected. At the time, analysts were projecting earnings of 47 cents a share, but many subsequently revised their targets downward. "The guidance was driven by trends in the early weeks of December related to revenue and fuel," said CEO Gerard Arpey, on a conference call with analysts and reporters. "
Fourth-quarter revenue per available seat mile grew 5.1% to 10.06 cents. Revenue from other sources such as confirmed flight changes, buy-on-board food services and third-party maintenance work was $347 million, up 11.7%. Load factor was a record 78.8%. On the cost side, mainline cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and special items was 7.82 cents, up 0.5%. During the fourth quarter, AMR paid $120 million less for fuel than it would have at prevailing prices a year earlier, partially because of its conservation efforts. Full-year revenue was $22.6 billion, an 8.9% increase. RASM advanced 8.8% last year, while CASM excluding fuel and special items grew by 1.3%. AMR ended the year with $5.2 billion in cash and short-term investments, up from $4.3 billion a year earlier. The airline's debt was $18.4 billion, down from $20.1 billion in 2005.