The FINANCIAL -- American Airlines Group Inc. on April 26 reported its first-quarter results, including these highlights:
Reported a first-quarter 2018 pre-tax profit of $273 million, or $468 million excluding net special items1, and a first-quarter net profit of $186 million, or $357 million excluding net special items
First-quarter 2018 earnings were $0.39 per diluted share, or $0.75 per diluted share excluding net special items
2017 earnings were $3.90 per diluted share, or $4.88 per diluted share excluding net special items. Fourth-quarter earnings were $0.54 per diluted share, or $0.95 per diluted share excluding net special items
Returned $498 million to shareholders, including the repurchase of 8.4 million shares and dividend payments of $48 million. Announced a new $2.0 billion share repurchase authorization2 to be completed by December 31, 2020
“American’s team members continue to deliver solid results, including record first quarter revenue performance. Higher fuel prices led to a decline in year-over-year earnings, but we are excited about the future,” said Chairman and CEO Doug Parker. “With the youngest fleet in the industry among our large network peer competitors, a significantly improved product, and a team of 130,000 who demonstrate extraordinary care for our customers, we are well positioned for long-term success.”
Robust demand for air travel drove a 5.9 percent year-over-year increase in first-quarter 2018 total revenue, to a first quarter record $10.4 billion. Passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) grew in all geographic regions, with notable strength in Latin America. Cargo revenue was up 18.8 percent to $227 million due primarily to a 10.9 percent increase in volume and a 7.1 percent increase in cargo yield. Other revenue was up 10.0 percent to $694 million. First-quarter total revenue per available seat mile increased by 3.5 percent compared to the first quarter 2017 on a 2.3 percent increase in total available seat miles. This marks the sixth consecutive quarter of positive unit revenue growth and the second quarter in a row where all geographic regions showed PRASM growth on a year-over-year basis, according to American Airlines.
Total first-quarter 2018 operating expenses were $10.0 billion, up 9.8 percent year-over-year driven by a 25.7 percent increase in consolidated fuel expense. Had fuel prices remained unchanged versus the first quarter 2017, total expenses would have been $412 million lower. Total first-quarter 2018 cost per available seat mile (CASM) was 15.15 cents, up 7.3 percent from first-quarter 2017. Excluding fuel and special items, total first-quarter CASM was 11.57 cents, up 2.8 percent year-over-year.
“We made significant progress on several key initiatives during the first quarter, including fleet simplification and adding more travel options for customers by expanding Basic Economy,” said President Robert Isom.
“Our recently announced order for 47 Boeing 787s enables the retirement of older aircraft, including the Airbus A330-300, the Boeing 767, and certain Boeing 777-200s. These replacement aircraft will provide improved fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs, greater range, and an enhanced customer experience.
“In April, we launched trans-Atlantic Basic Economy together with our Atlantic partners. Basic Economy is now rolled out in the U.S. and certain markets in Mexico and the Caribbean. We continue to look for more opportunities to launch this popular travel option for our customers,” Isom said.
American Airlines is focused on four long-term strategic objectives: Create a World-Class Customer Experience, Make Culture a Competitive Advantage, Ensure Long-Term Financial Strength, and Think Forward, Lead Forward.
Create a World-Class Customer Experience
American is committed to delivering a world-class product by creating value and building trust with customers, driving operational excellence, and strengthening its network, especially where the company has a competitive advantage. During the first quarter, American:
Filed an application along with Qantas to the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking approval to form a joint business to better serve customers flying between North America and Australia and New Zealand. The proposed joint business will significantly improve service and stimulate demand, and is expected to unlock more than $300 million annually in consumer benefits that are not achievable through any other form of cooperation
Enhanced the travel experience between New York LaGuardia and Chicago for business customers by adding that route to the company’s shuttle portfolio. The shuttle is highly valued by top business customers and offers an hourly schedule and dedicated gates and check-in areas
Expanded Basic Economy to its first trans-Atlantic routes on April 11, including Dallas/Fort Worth-London Heathrow, giving customers a new option for American’s lowest fares in partnership with American’s Atlantic joint business partners
Introduced new wine sommelier Bobby Stuckey to lead American’s wine program, selecting premium wines for customers to enjoy in Admirals Club lounges, Flagship Lounges, Flagship First Dining and in flight
Introduced new meals on certain Pacific flights. Japan Airlines’ Chef Jun Kurogi has designed a traditional Japanese meal in premium cabins on flights from Tokyo, and Chef Sean Connolly has designed dishes for premium cabins on flights from Auckland and Sydney
Make Culture a Competitive Advantage
American is creating an environment that cares for frontline team members, provides competitive pay, and equips its team with the right tools to support its customers. During the first quarter, American:
Hosted 7,000 American Airlines leaders at its Annual Leadership Conference in Dallas. Team members who oversee people spent a full day learning about American’s four strategic objectives and how to implement them in partnership with their teams
Honored 103 team members at the company’s Annual Chairman’s Award celebration in Dallas earlier this month. The Chairman’s Award is the airline’s highest recognition, and recipients this year were recognized for accomplishments including making complicated maintenance tasks easier and safer, caring for colleagues during personal tragedies, and making customers feel like family
Accrued $29 million for the company’s 2018 profit sharing program during the quarter
Completed the transition to a new cloud-based HR information system which provides seamless integration of team member data and hiring, onboarding, compensation and performance-related tasks. In April, American also implemented a new payroll system for U.S.-based management and support staff, with the remaining team members to transition on a phased basis
Ensure Long-Term Financial Strength
American is focused on capturing the efficiencies created by the merger, delivering on its earnings potential, and creating value for its owners. In the first quarter, American:
Returned $498 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends, bringing the total since mid-2014 to $11.9 billion. These repurchases have reduced the share count by 38 percent to 467.4 million shares as of March 31, 2018
In April, announced an order for 47 new Boeing 787 widebody aircraft consisting of 22 787-8s scheduled to begin arriving in 2020 and 25 787-9s scheduled to begin arriving in 2023. The 787-8s will replace American’s Boeing 767-300s, while later 787-9 deliveries will replace Airbus A330-300s and older 777-200 widebody aircraft. In addition, American deferred 40 737 MAX aircraft and 3 Airbus A321neo aircraft. These changes better align future aircraft deliveries with planned aircraft retirements and reduce planned capital expenditures by approximately $200 million in 2019 and $800 million in 2020
On April 26, 2018 declared a dividend of $0.10 per share, to be paid on May 22, 2018, to stockholders of record as of May 8, 2018
Think Forward, Lead Forward
American is committed to re-establishing itself as an industry leader by creating an action-oriented culture that moves quickly to bring products to market, embraces technological change, and quickly seizes upon new opportunities for its network and product. In the first quarter, American:
Reached a new lease agreement with the city of Chicago that clears the way for an $8.5 billion redevelopment plan at O’Hare that includes more gates, a better structure for connecting travelers, and a better overall customer experience that will help close the competitive gate gap there
Reached an agreement earlier this month to get access to 15 additional gates in DFW Terminal E. This allows the company to significantly grow departures at its largest hub to more than 900 per day, enabling more customers to access our global network
Completed all customer-facing renovations in Terminal B, where American’s regional operation at Dallas/Fort Worth is located
In April, opened five new gates at Chicago O’Hare Terminal 3, permitting American to provide improved service to its customers at this key competitive hub
Guidance and Investor Update
American expects its second-quarter 2018 TRASM to increase approximately 1.5 to 3.5 percent year-over-year, which reflects expected continued strength in demand for both business and leisure travel. The company also expects its second-quarter 2018 pre-tax margin excluding special items to be between 7.5 and 9.5 percent.3 Due to higher fuel prices included in the guidance provided today, American now expects its 2018 diluted earnings per share excluding net special items to be between $5.00 and $6.00.