American Airlines' quarterly loss better than expected, shares jump

'As vaccine distribution takes hold and travel restrictions are lifted, we will be ready'

American Airlines Group Inc posted a slimmer-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday and joined rival Delta Air Lines in calling 2021 a year of recovery for an industry that has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

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“As we look to the year ahead, 2021 will be a year of recovery. While we don’t know exactly when passenger demand will return, as vaccine distribution takes hold and travel restrictions are lifted, we will be ready,” American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC.21.44+0.26+1.23%

Shares surged 60% in premarket trading.

American reported a net loss of $2.18 billion, or $3.81 per share, for the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $414 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.

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On an adjusted basis, the company lost $3.86 per share. Analysts on average expected the company to lose $4.11 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

An airline employee walks past empty American Airlines check-in terminals at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Total operating revenue fell to $4.03 billion from $11.31 billion but topped analysts’ expectations of $3.88 billion.

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The carrier reported an annual loss of $8.9 billion, its biggest on record.

Airlines are hoping that sentiment will improve this year as COVID-19 vaccines are more widely distributed. However, new strains of the virus have triggered tighter rules for international travel in countries including the United States.

American Airlines ended the fourth quarter with about $14.3 billion in available liquidity.