Traffic on American Airlines flights jumped 10 percent last month from May 2004, and the airline reported that its airplanes were fuller.
Capacity at the Fort Worth-based airline grew by about 3 percent during the month. That means airplanes flew, on average, about 78 percent full -- about 5 percentage points better than a year ago.
American's upbeat report came as Houston-based rival Continental Airlines said that its unit revenues for May were up nearly 10 percent over last year. Analyst Jamie Baker of JPMorgan Securities estimated that average airfares at Continental were up 3 percent for the month.
The revenue figure "all but assures a second-quarter profit despite surging energy costs," Baker said in a report to investors Thursday.
Continental is the only major airline to report revenues every month, so its results are closely watched. Most analysts still expect the major airlines to post losses for the second quarter.
At American, the largest traffic increases came in routes across the Pacific, which climbed 28 percent over May 2004. Passengers on flights to Europe rose by 11 percent, while traffic to Latin America was up 17 percent. Domestic passenger traffic climbed 7 percent.
Traffic was also up substantially at American Eagle, the airline's regional affiliate. Eagle, the largest U.S. regional airline, saw its traffic jump by 33 percent, while its capacity grew by 27 percent, compared with May 2004.
Stock in AMR Corp. (ticker: AMR) jumped Thursday, closing at $13.72 per share -- an increase of 99 cents, or about 8 percent.
Other airline stocks also improved Thursday, including Delta Air Lines (DAL), up 9 percent to close at $4.18 per share; Continental (CAL), up 8 percent to close at $14.67; and Northwest Airlines (NWAC), which finished at $6.38 per share, up about 8 percent.
But one analyst cautioned that despite the good news, the overall industry outlook for the rest of the year remains gloomy.
"We still expect large losses in the industry," said Ray Neidl of Calyon Securities in a report Thursday. He projects the industry to lose $1 billion during the second quarter and $5.5 billion for the year.