US Airways' 3rd-quarter earnings climb 72 percent Heavy passenger traffic propel's sharp increase

October 23, 1997|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Continuing to enjoy an industrywide surge in traffic, US Airways Inc. said yesterday that its earnings grew 72 percent to $116.7 million, or $1.14 a share, in the third quarter, excluding unusual gains and expenses.

The Arlington, Va.-based carrier, which handles 45 percent of the daily passengers at BWI, reported net income of $187 million, which included a $179.6 million nonrecurring gain from the sale of the airline's shares in Apollo Travel Services and $97.7 million in unusual expenses. The company's earnings in the third quarter of 1996 were $67.7 million, or 69 cents a share, which included payment of profit-sharing obligations.

Operating revenue for the quarter was $2.12 billion, up $42.6 million over the $2.07 in 1996. The quarterly operating profit, however, dropped nearly 37 percent, down from $131.3 million to $83.1 million.

Significantly, the passenger load factor -- the percentage of paying passengers on a flight -- was 73.4 percent for the quarter, an increase of 3.6 percent over the third quarter of 1996.

"The stars are in alignment. There are more passengers, fares are up and they have relative labor peace," said John Presburg, vice president of the Boyd Group/Aviation Systems Research in Golden, Colo. "All the major carriers are reporting excellent profits this quarter."

Last week, American said its third-quarter earnings rose from $282 million to $323 million, up 15 percent, and yesterday Northwest Airlines reported third-quarter profits by more than 14 percent, to $290.3 million. Airline stocks have been rising lately as well, with US Airways reaching a year-high of $51.8125 on Monday, compared to $16.875 a year ago. The stock closed at $49.50, down $2.3125, yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

US Airways Chairman and Chief Executive Stephen M. Wolf, who took over the airline 22 months ago, said yesterday that the company's latest results are a "tribute to our employees hard work and profession and their dedication to making US Airways the carrier of choice."

The airline recently reached a tentative pact with its 4,800-member pilots union.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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