US Airways Group Inc. and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, both operating under bankruptcy court protection, reported losses in the third quarter yesterday, blaming record high fuel prices and an inability to raise fares amid stiff competition.
Budget carrier JetBlue Airways Corp., one of the nation's best-performing airlines, said yesterday its profit fell more than 70 percent in the quarter from the same period a year ago.
All three airlines failed to meet Wall Street analysts' estimates.
Arlington-based US Airways, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, said its third-quarter loss widened to $232 million ($4.22 a share), from $90 million, ($1.69) in the same period last year. Thomson First Call projected a loss for the airline of $2.51 a share.
US Airways' fuel costs increased 29 percent from the same period a year ago.
The airline's operations were also negatively affected by the hurricanes in Florida and the Southeast in August and September. The airline estimated it lost $20 million in revenue because of the storms. Its revenue for the quarter was $1.80 billion, up 1.6 percent from the third quarter a year ago.
US Airways' cash levels continued to decline. The airline reported $1.49 billion in cash, including $757 million in restricted cash. That's down from $1.73 billion, of which $975 million was restricted, in the second quarter.
"I am disappointed that we have reported yet another quarterly loss," said Bruce R. Lakefield, US Airways president and chief executive officer. "However, I am confident that we are charting a new course with a well-crafted plan, that if fully implemented, can return US Airways to profitability."
Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl said he expects US Airways to report even steeper losses during the fourth quarter, which is traditionally one of the airline's weaker periods.
Neidl said the airline still needs to "sharply lower costs to low-cost carrier levels on a permanent basis, overhaul its corporate culture while maintaining employee goodwill despite asking for large sacrifices and implement a workable and competitive business model." Failure to achieve these significant goals could result in the airline's liquidation, Neidl said.
UAL Corp. said its loss narrowed to $274 million ($2.38 a share), from $367 million ($3.47) for the same period a year ago. Revenue increased 7 percent, to $4.3 billion, from $4.04 billion during the same quarter a year ago. Thomson First Call analysts estimated that United would lose about $1.72 a share.
United has been operating under bankruptcy protection for nearly two years.
JetBlue reported net income of $8.4 million (8 cents a share), down 71 percent from $29 million (26 cents) in the same period a year ago. Analysts had predicted earnings of $10 million in the quarter.
JetBlue, whose low fares, leather seats and seat-back satellite TV have fed its popularity, said its operations were hit hard by the hurricanes and high fuel prices.