American: Empty seats, higher fuel costs shrink revenue

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – American Airlines says international traffic and a key revenue figure are down and fuel is costing more than it expected.

American said Monday that passenger traffic last month declined 0.3 percent from April 2014, as international traffic fell 5.7 percent, offsetting a 1.5 percent gain in U.S. travel. There were more empty seats – the average flight was 81.6 percent full, down from 82.9 percent a year ago. The number of extra seats was larger on international flights than domestic ones.

Airlines have been saying that the stronger dollar is hurting revenue from tickets sold abroad, and an increase of flights on some routes may be pushing fares down.

American still expects revenue for every seat flown one mile in the second quarter to decline between 4 percent and 6 percent from a year earlier. That’s a key figure in the airline business, and it falls if fewer seats are filled or the average ticket price drops.

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Cheaper jet fuel helped airline post big profits in the first quarter, but that advantage is shrinking slightly. American said that with the recent uptick in crude prices, it now expects to pay $1.94 to $1.99 per gallon for fuel in the second quarter, about 10 cents more than it predicted last month.

Shares of Fort Worth, Texas-based American Airlines Group Inc. rose 50 cents to $49.54 on morning trading Monday. At Friday’s close, they were down 9 percent in 2015.