US Airways Upbeat on Demand

Updated from 1:36 p.m. EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- US Airways ( LCC) is reviewing whether to spin off its frequent-flier program, although consolidation could be better for shareholders, CEO Doug Parker said Thursday.

Speaking on a conference call after the carrier reported strong third-quarter results, Parker said the review was prompted by "enough people coming and making pitches to us about it." Those people, he said, are "investment banks looking for fees," whom he called "good people, doing their job."

US Airways has "begun the work" of examining whether a transaction would create value, but Parker said, "You can color us a little skeptical on this because it takes peoples' eyes off the ball."

Parker said he knows of no consolidation efforts that are underway. He said "crisis makes it more likely to happen, and we don't have a crisis going on today," but added that he believes mergers make sense no matter the economic environment.

At the same time, today's airline industry is extraordinarily healthy, he said, because carriers are acting in tandem to keep capacity in check.

When revenue flattened in the second quarter, "what we saw was every airline reduce capacity going forward," he said. "I've never seen anything like that. Now we're all reporting profits. This is a pivotal and probably momentous change in our industry."

In the third quarter, for US Airways, reduced capacity and strong demand meant net income of $177 million, or $1.87 a share. Excluding special items, the company earned $185 million, or $1.96 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had estimated $1.75. Revenue was $3.04 billion, up 2.3%, but was slightly below estimates.

Mainline passenger revenue per available seat mile rose 6.5%, while consolidated passenger RASM climbed 5.6% on a 2.9% capacity decline. Fourth-quarter RASM growth will likely replicate third-quarter levels, said President Scott Kirby.

Cost per available seat mile, excluding fuel and special items, was 7.68 cents, up 5.7%. The increase reflects added costs for an operational improvement effort that included a short-term capacity reduction.

Shares of US Airways fell 4.7% to $27.39 on a day the Amex Airline Index, along with other transportation-stock measures, was hit hard by a record high in crude oil prices.

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