If we had a functional Congress or White House in this country, this would be the time for someone to start paying close attention to the economic and social implications of the long-cosseted airline industry slashing vital national services, whatever their excuse may be.
Here's American's announcement in full:
"AMR Corporation Announces Significant Capacity Reductions, Aircraft Retirements and Additional Revenue Growth Efforts
Wednesday May 21, 9:37 am ET
Actions Taken in Response to Record Fuel Prices, Economic Concerns and a Difficult Competitive Environment
"The airline industry as it is constituted today was not built to withstand oil prices at $125 a barrel, and certainly not when record fuel expenses are coupled with a weak
Additional 2008 Capacity Reductions
AMR, which is holding its Annual Meeting of Shareholders today, said it will reduce American Airlines domestic capacity -- or available seat miles flown -- in the fourth quarter of 2008 by 11 percent to 12 percent, compared to the fourth quarter of 2007. According to its April 16 guidance, AMR previously expected domestic mainline capacity in the fourth quarter to decline by 4.6 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
In addition, AMR regional affiliate capacity is expected to decline by 10 percent to 11 percent in the fourth quarter compared to fourth quarter 2007 levels. Previously, regional affiliate capacity in the fourth quarter was expected to increase by 2.0 percent from 2007 levels.
AMR continues to assess the impact of the capacity reductions on specific routes and markets. (For additional information regarding AMR capacity changes for 2008, refer to the table at the end of the release.)
Arpey said the capacity reductions aim to significantly reduce costs as well as create a more sustainable supply-and-demand balance in the market. In recent years, Arpey added, the industry has been hurt by some airlines growing faster than conditions warranted, and that impact has worsened in light of recent economic trends and soaring fuel prices.
As a result of significantly reduced flying, AMR expects to retire 40 to 45 mainline aircraft from American's fleet, the majority of which will consist of MD-80s but will also include some Airbus A300 aircraft. The capacity reductions will also result in the retirement of 35 to 40 regional jets, as well as a number of turbo-prop aircraft from AMR's regional affiliate fleet.
The capacity changes will result in workforce reductions at both American Airlines and American Eagle Airlines and could result in facility closures or facility consolidation. AMR is assessing the scope and location-specific impact of any workforce reductions resulting from the capacity reductions. In addition, AMR is assessing the impact of these capacity reductions on its overall cost outlook.
Additional Revenue Initiatives
Beyond the company's ongoing cost-containment efforts, Arpey noted that AMR has consistently sought revenue improvements through fare increases and fuel surcharges. Since AMR released its first quarter 2008 financial results on April 16, American has participated in or led 15 fare increases, 14 of which were at least partially successful.
Today, American introduced a $15 fee for the first checked bag, given the increasing costs of transporting checked baggage. This fee, which is effective for tickets purchased on or after June 15, does not apply to: American's AAdvantage program members who have achieved AAdvantage Gold, AAdvantage Platinum and AAdvantage Executive Platinum level; those who have purchased full-fare tickets in the Economy, Business and First Class cabins; and those with international itineraries (except to and from Canada and U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).
American also said today that it has increased its fees for certain other services, ranging from reservation service fees to pet and oversized bag fees. The increases mostly range from $5 to $50 per service. The company estimates that new and increased fees announced this month will generate several hundred million dollars in incremental annual revenue.
"While we understand that these fees affect customers, we also believe that our pricing for the services we provide remains extremely competitive in the industry and continues to offer our customers ample choice and value," Arpey said. "The bottom line is that our revenues, which include ticket sales and fees, must keep pace with our increasing costs."
As evidence of the crisis caused by soaring fuel prices, Arpey cited the U.S. airline industry's first quarter 2008 pre-tax loss of nearly $2 billion excluding special items and the fact that eight U.S. airlines that have filed for bankruptcy protection this year, including five that have ceased service. AMR paid $665 million more for fuel in the first quarter than it would have paid at prices from the year-ago period. Its first quarter fuel expense increased by 45 percent year over year, while its total revenue increased by 5 percent. The price of jet fuel has increased by more than 10 percent since April 16, when AMR expected its 2008 fuel bill would be well over $6 billion higher than in 2003.
However, Arpey also noted that AMR has made much progress in recent years to better prepare it for the current uncertainty. At the end of the first quarter of 2008, the company's Total Debt, which it defines as the aggregate of its long-term debt, capital lease obligations, the principal amount of airport facility tax-exempt bonds, and the present value of aircraft operating lease obligations, was $15.2 billion, down more than 25 percent from the end of 2002. AMR's Net Debt, which it defines as Total Debt less unrestricted cash and short-term investments, was $10.7 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2008, down more than 40 percent from the end of 2002. AMR also ended the first quarter with $4.9 billion in cash and short-term investments, including a restricted balance of $426 million. It had about $2.7 billion in total cash and short-term investments, including a restricted balance of $783 million, at the end of 2002.
"Clearly, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us given the economic
realities we face," Arpey said. "But we have battled through many challenges
throughout our long history, and, with the continued dedication of our
leadership team and our people, I believe we have the fortitude to continue to
2008 Expected April 16
Capacity May 21 Guidance Guidance/
(year over (expected range) Expectations
4Q08 FY2008 4Q08 FY2008
System -8% to -7% -3.5% to -2.5% -1.9% -1.4%
Mainline Domestic -12% to -11% -6% to -5% -4.6% -3.6%
International -0.5% to 0.5% 1% to 2% 3.0% 2.5%
Regional System -11% to -10% -6.5% to -5.5% 2.0% -2.1%
Consolidated System -8% to -7% -4% to -3% -1.6% -1.5%
In other news:
--Would somebody please turn a garden hose on this JetBlue press-release writer? The one who evidently believes Burbank (Burbank!) is the "media capital of the world" and doesn't quite grasp what the term "makes history" means? (And by the way, Bob Hope Airport is a convenient airport, but when you wake up in the morning, you're still in Burbank. And incidentally, I met Bob Hope once, and he was an invincible jerk.)
Anyway, here's the press release. To wit: