US Airways, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection since August, said yesterday that it lost $794 million in the fourth quarter, its 10th consecutive quarterly loss.
The Arlington-based airline's loss narrowed to $11.67 per share from a record-breaking loss of $1.15 billion, or $17.07 per share, in the same period a year ago.
Revenue for the period increased slightly, to $1.61 billion, compared with $1.57 billion a year earlier.
US Airways also trimmed its annual loss, to $1.65 billion, or $24.20 per share, from $2.12 billion, or $31.48 per share, in 2001. But the airline's revenue slid nearly 16 percent, to $6.98 billion, during the year, from $8.29 billion in 2001.
US Airways, the nation's seventh-largest carrier, said it expects revenue to continue to decline, by nearly $10 million a month, because of the drastic fare cuts it has implemented along with several other major airlines.
Since its Chapter 11 filing, US Airways said it has renegotiated contracts with employees, aircraft leaseholders and suppliers in a way that will cut costs by nearly $1.9 billion a year for the next seven years. But the company is still working to terminate its pilot pension plan, which is underfunded by $2 billion largely because of the weakened stock market. The company said that a failure to reckon with the pension plan could jeopardize its reorganization effort. The airline last week asked the federal bankruptcy court to terminate its pilots' pension plan by the end of March and replace it with one that could pay as much as 50 percent less to retirees. The airline's pilots union has vowed to fight US Airways' move. A hearing on the termination was scheduled for Feb. 20.
Airline analyst Ray Neidl of Blaylock & Partners said US Airways still has more costs to cut, especially in light of the weakened revenue estimates. "The airline eliminated a lot of routes last year and cut a great deal of their costs. But they still have more work to do," he said. "But these guys are going to make it or not based on the pension issue."
David G. Bronner, chief executive of Retirement Systems of Alabama, which was one of the leading investors in the airline, said he was not surprised by US Airways' results. He did not expect to see the cost-cutting translate into any signs of a turnaround until late spring. But that scenario could change depending on whether the United States goes to war with Iraq and, if so, how long the war lasts.
"We knew that the airline industry was bumpy, and it's real bumpy right now," Bronner said. "It takes a while for management to get all of the stuff that has been agreed to and then it has to go into effect."