Major Airlines Report Strong Quarterly Profits

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Three of the nation's airlines — Delta, American and US Airways — say they made a profit in the third quarter of the year. Those profits come after some major losses in recent years.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Here's a sign the U.S. economy may be doing a bit better. Three of this country's major airlines - Delta, American and US Airways - announced strong quarterly profits yesterday.

Edgar Treiguts of Georgia Public Broadcasting reports on the turnarounds.

EDGAR TREIGUTS: Take Delta. A year ago, the Atlanta-based carrier was staggering with about $160 million in losses. Now it's had one of its best third quarters ever: $360 million in income. There was also good news for US Airways - a quarter of a billion in profit; and for American Airlines, a profit for the first time in two years. In fact, the Air Transport Association says the nation's top airlines have had revenue growth nine straight months. Delta is the leading U.S. carrier to Asia and airline executive Hank Halter says its returns were fueled especially by strong demand for more expensive international routes.

Mr. HANK HALTER (Delta Airlines): The corporate business traveler is back on the road conducting business. Leisure demand remains strong, and the good thing is we're seeing strong demand across the globe.

TREIGUTS: Halter says Delta expects to be profitable in this quarter too. Across the industry, because airlines cut back on flights, they're operating at max capacity and filling up seats.

Analyst Robert Herbst says because of that high demand, airlines are offering fewer fare sales. And he doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

Mr. ROBERT HERBST: I think they're trying to make profits to replace all the losses they had over the last 10 years and recapitalize the industry. You're definitely going to see fares go up.

TREIGUTS: As for those add-on fees like charges for food and luggage, he says those are here to stay.

For NPR News, I'm Edgar Treiguts in Atlanta.

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