American Airlines' Loss Shrinks

An earlier version of this American Airlines earnings story incorrectly reported that American is the only U.S. carrier expected to report a first-quarter loss. Most airlines are expected to report a first-quarter loss; American is the one airline expected to report a loss for the full year.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Battling soaring fuel costs, a nasty winter and expectations as one of many U.S. carriers to post a loss for the first quarter, American Airlines parent AMR ( AMR) reported better-than-expected earnings -- a narrower loss -- Wednesday morning.

Excluding items, American reported a loss of $405 million, or $1.21 a share, compared with the $1.32 consensus loss expected by analysts. American reported a loss of $452 million, or $1.36 a share in the year-ago period.

Despite a $351 million rise in year-over-year fuel expense, American reduced its net loss by $47 million.

"High fuel prices remain one of the biggest challenges to our industry and our company," said CEO Gerard Arpey in a statement. "We believe our steps to aggressively increase revenues, reduce capacity, control non-fuel operating costs, and bolster liquidity will help us to better manage the challenges we currently face -- while we clearly must achieve better results as we continue to strengthen our business, we have made some meaningful progress."

American's total revenues increased 9.2% year-over-year to $5.5 billion, in line with analysts' forecasts. This was helped by consolidated passenger unit revenue (PRASM), which rose 5.2%.

American, the first airline to report for the quarter, said that its sales growth was helped by the improving economy, a boost in business travel and an "improved fare environment."

As a move to combat the soaring price of fuel, airlines have aggressively raised ticket prices and introduced new fees over the past quarter. At an investor conference last month, Delta ( DAL) President Ed Bastian said that as fuel prices rose rapidly, airline fares increased along with them, in "an unprecedented display of pricing discipline in this industry, to make sure we're getting the price of our product covered."

Wall Street has said that airlines should continue to see strength as the year goes on. Among the U.S. carriers, only one -- American -- is expected to lose money for the full year.

American's conference call with analysts begins Wednesday at 2 p.m. eastern.

United/Continental ( UAL) and Southwest ( LUV) are scheduled to report results Thursday.

American shares were rising 9 cents to $5.79 Wednesday.

--Written by Maggie Overfelt in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/maggieoverfelt.

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