North American airlines continued their improved profit run in 2013, underlining the turnaround in fortunes for carriers from the region as they reap the benefits of restructuring and consolidation.
The latest Airline Business/Flightglobal World Airline Rankings show collective operating profits of more than $13 billion for the 25 North American carriers featuring among the biggest 150 operators by revenue in 2013. This is nearly double the 2012 figure and more than carriers from the other five regions combined in 2013 in US dollar terms.
Delta led the way for US carriers in terms of operating profits, posting a return of $3.4 billion. But there were also sharp improvements for the newly-enlarged American Airlines Group - incorporating US Airways - and United-Continental, turning round modest profits in 2013 to post earnings of $1.6 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.
FedEx Express and Southwest Airlines both doubled operating profits over the previous year. Indeed only UPS, of the 10 biggest North American carriers, did not see operating profits improve over the last 12 months.
The region’s carriers account for nearly 80% of net profits among the top 150 operators – though this figure is skewed by Delta’s one-off income tax gain of around $8 billion. By contrast American Airlines Group was dragged into another heavy net loss by restructuring costs incurred in the fourth quarter.
The enlarged American Airlines Group ranked as the largest airline group in the world in 2013 with revenues of $40.4 billion. The group - together with United-Continental, Delta, FedEx and Southwest - is one of five North American airlines to feature in the top 10 global airlines by revenue.
Delta tops the global rankings in 2013 by both net and operating profits.
US carriers' profit run has continued into 2014. Delta, the first of the US majors to report second quarter earnings, posted an operating profit of $1.58 billion in the second quarter on revenues up 9%. United-Continental also posted improved second quarter profits.
Even before the second quarter results have been released, IATA was forecasting the North American carriers will account for more than half of total industry profits this year.