American, Southwest post losses despite strong demand

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, file)

Both American and Southwest Airlines reported first-quarter losses Thursday.

Southwest said it will limit hiring and stop flying to four airports as it copes with weak financial results and delays in getting new planes from Boeing. American Airlines CEO Robert Isom said American is less impacted by Boeing’s problems because the airline had already received hundreds of new planes in recent years.

Demand for travel remains strong, including among business flyers, but airlines are dealing with higher labor costs, and delays in getting new aircraft from Boeing are limiting their ability to add more flights.

Fort Worth-based American said it lost $312 million as labor costs rose 18%, or nearly $600 million. The airline said it expects to return to profitability in the second quarter — a busier time for travel — and post earnings between $1.15 and $1.45 per share. Analysts expect $1.15 per share, according to a FactSet survey.

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The first-quarter loss amounted to 34 cents per share excluding special items, which was worse than the loss of 27 cents per share forecast by analysts. Revenue was $12.57 billion.

The airline said eight Boeing jets it expected to get won’t show up this year as planned. American has ordered Boeing Max 10s, a larger model that has not yet been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, but those planes are not due until 2028.

“I’ve talked to everyone at Boeing that I can possibly address and the message is the same: Get your act together,” Isom said on a call with analysts and reporters. “It starts with producing quality products one at a time off the assembly line … I can’t tell you if they’re making progress or not.”

American has had no problem getting new, smaller regional jets from Embraer. Isom said the Brazilian manufacturer has been “incredibly reliable.”

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Dallas-based Southwest said it lost $231 million. CEO Robert Jordan said the airline was reacting quickly “to address our financial underperformance,” including by slowing down hiring and asking employees to take time off. The Dallas-based carrier said it expects to end this year with 2,000 fewer employees than it had at the start of the year.

In August, Southwest will stop flying to four airports: Cozumel, Mexico; Syracuse, New York; Bellingham, Washington; and George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, where the airline’s major operation is at smaller Hobby Airport. Southwest hasn’t left an airport since 2019, when it pulled out of Newark, New Jersey, and consolidated its New York City-area flying at LaGuardia Airport. Southwest will also trim flights in Atlanta and at O’Hare Airport, which augments the airline’s main Chicago service at Midway Airport.

The moves will help the airline focus on more profitable locations and deploy a fleet of planes that will be smaller than it had planned. Southwest said it expects to get only 20 new 737 Max 8 jets from Boeing this year, down from the 46 it expected just a few weeks ago. It will offset some of the shortage by retiring fewer planes.

Boeing is struggling with slower production since a door plug blew out of an Alaska Airlines Max 9 in January, and that is frustrating its airline customers. Southwest said its loss, after excluding special items, was 36 cents per share. That was slightly worse than the loss of 34 cents per share that Wall Street expected. Revenue rose to $6.33 billion, below analysts’ forecast of $6.42 billion