Alaska Air posts higher profits in quarterly report

Posted: Monday, February 01, 2010

ATLANTA - Alaska Air Group Inc., operator of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, said more traffic partly due to aggressive fare promotions and higher revenue helped it posted a $24.1 million fourth-quarter profit.

The company, based in Seattle, said Thursday its earnings for the final three months of 2009 amounted to 67 cents a share, compared to a loss of $75.2 million, or $2.08 a share, for the same period in 2008.

Without certain items, its profit came to 12 cents a share for the quarter.

Revenue in the quarter rose more than 2 percent to $846.1 million from $827.1 million a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected adjusted fourth-quarter profit of 32 cents a share on revenue of $821.2 million.

Alaska Air Group reported full-year 2009 net income of $121.6 million, or $3.36 a share, compared to a net loss of $135.9 million, or $3.74 a share, in 2008. Twelve-month revenue fell to $3.40 billion from $3.66 billion in 2008.

The company spent $172.5 million on aircraft fuel, including hedging gains and losses, in the fourth quarter, less than half of the $358.8 million it spent in the same period of 2008.

"Although we are not where we want to be, we are making great strides given weak demand," CEO Bill Ayer told analysts in a conference call.

Alaska Air is doing better financially than some of the bigger carriers because it does not have as much international exposure as them.

The company also has been very aggressive in discounting seats. Executives said Thursday that the company's advance bookings through March are solid.

Chief Financial Officer Glenn Johnson told investors last month the company is remaining disciplined in terms of capacity, which is measured by the available seats an airline offers times the miles flown.

Executives are concerned about higher pension and labor costs. They said they want to lower costs this year, and being smaller than many of its rivals means Alaska Air can make changes more quickly.

The company expects only four plane deliveries in 2010 and three in 2011.

The parent company said previously that Alaska Airlines' capacity is expected to increase 1 percent to 2 percent in 2010, while Horizon Air's will probably be flat.

Alaska Air has a partnership with Delta Air Lines, the world's biggest airline.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air serve more than 90 cities through their network in Alaska, Hawaii, the continental U.S., Canada and Mexico.

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