Airline Losses Are Shrinking

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.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 29 2014 10:00 PM “Everything Must Change in Italy” An interview with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 29 2014 12:01 PM This Is Your MOM’s Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.