American Airlines loses big, but loses less

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

WFAA

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 8:50 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 19 at 8:51 PM

FORT WORTH — After losing almost $1.5 billion in 2009, losing $471 million in 2010 is an improvement for American Airlines.

That's how the carrier sees it, anyway.

American spokesman Tim Smith says the fourth quarter was a highlight. "Our improvement this quarter versus the same quarter last year was almost $350 million better,” he said.

The airline hopes to return to profitability in 2012.

It's clawing its way back with plans that include stronger relationships with international carriers: British Airways and Iberia to Europe and Japan Airlines to Asia.

American also just bought two new planes for its more profitable overseas flights.

"A lot of good things in the pipeline. A lot of good improvement year over year and we think we'll see more in 2011,” Smith said.

Air travel expert Rick Seaney, with FareCompare.com, says that's a question mark.

"They were in a deep hole. Maybe they're halfway to three-quarters out of that hole," he said. "The question is, can they get their head just above that hole so they can see light? I think that's still in question.”

In 2011, Seaney says American  and its customers will suffer if the airline continues to withhold its flights from being listed on Web sites like Orbitz and Expedia.

And rising fuel costs could eat into any profits this year, too. If that happens, Seaney says you can expect to see more fees at higher prices.

"More fees, packages of fees, bundles of fees, discounts of fees — it's going to be much harder for a consumer to really compare apples to apples,” he said.

American is the only major airline expected to report it lost money in 2010.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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