Airline profits: Losing money, but not as much money.

Airline Losses Are Shrinking

Airline Losses Are Shrinking

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
June 27 2013 2:45 PM

What Passes for Good News in Aviation—Companies Are Losing Less Money

United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek leaves the gate after stepping off a United Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Houston at O'Hare International Airport on May 20, 2013, in Chicago.
United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek leaves the gate after stepping off a United Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight from Houston at O'Hare International Airport on May 20, 2013, in Chicago.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Transportation released today says America's major airlines lost an aggregate $433 million in the first quarter of 2013, which in the Worst Business in the World counts as good news since they lost $1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2012. That leaves them on pace to actually make money for a year or two before either a recession or a revival of Chinese growth (and hence higher oil prices) pushes them back into their customary loss-making posture.

Perhaps a rosier way of looking at it is that of the top nine airlines, six made money. The aggregate losses exist because United and American both lost a ton of money, and American is getting bought by US Airways and presumably will be led by the US Airways executive team in the future.