US airline stocks fall after Delta reports decline in key January revenue figure

Energy Associated Press

Airline stocks fell Tuesday after Delta reported that a key revenue figure for January declined more sharply than expected due to winter storms and weaker international business.

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There appeared to be some doubts about whether travel demand will remain strong enough to support the higher fares that airlines have been able to demand.

Revenue for every seat flown one mile dropped 3.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Delta.

Delta said the January decline was in line with expectations and attributed nearly half the drop to winter storms that washed out many flights in January 2014. Cancelations typically increase revenue per seat as displaced passengers crowd on to the remaining flights, leaving fewer empty seats.

About 1 point of the decline was due to lower international revenue because of the weakness of the Japanese yen and the euro. Demand in the U.S. remained solid, Delta said.

Delta increased capacity by 6 percent, which airlines usually do by adding flights or using bigger planes. Some analysts have voiced concerns, saying airlines may be undercutting their pricing power by adding too many seats. Some of the increase was due to fewer cancelations.

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In afternoon trading, shares of Delta Air Lines Inc. fell 45 cents to $46.06. Shares of American Airlines Group Inc. were lower by $1.35, or 2.8 percent, at $47.37; United Continental Holdings Inc. lost $1.20, or 1.7 percent, to $68.18; Southwest Airlines Inc. dropped $1.42, or 3.2 percent, to $43.11; and JetBlue Airways Corp. fell 33 cents, or 2 percent, to $16.31.

Declines in the airline sector occurred during a strong upswing in U.S. markets. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 220 points.