Continental Airlines Loss Narrows in First Quarter

Continental Airlines Inc., one of the nation's biggest airlines, said Thursday its first-quarter loss narrowed as higher revenue and cost cuts helped boost its results.

The Houston-based company reported a loss of $66 million, or 76 cents per share, for the three months ended March 31 compared with a loss of $186 million, or $2.79 per share last year. Excluding a loss of $20 million from special items, Continental's loss totaled $46 million, or 53 cents per share.

Revenue rose 18 percent to $2.95 billion from $2.51 billion, helping Continental to post its first operating profit for a first quarter since 2001, the company said. Operating income totaled $11 million despite a 31 percent increase in fuel prices.

Continental said its results also were boosted by savings from wage and benefit cuts and other cost controls. During the quarter, the company ratified a new labor agreement with flight attendants, that combined with other labor contracts, will save about $500 million in run-rate costs.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a loss of 62 cents per share on revenue of $2.88 billion.

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