American Airlines' Traffic Up Nearly 5%

American Airlines reported that its traffic increased last month as airplane loads grew, while one industry analyst enlarged his projection of the airline's losses for 2005.

Fort Worth-based American, the world's largest airline, said total passenger traffic was up nearly 5 percent last month from April 2004. As has been the case for more than a year, the greatest growth came in international markets, up 14 percent, while domestic routes were largely flat.

Average aircraft loads rose nearly 3 percent as the growth in passenger traffic outstripped the airline's growth in available seats. And it appeared that a $10 price increase on round-trip tickets last week, American's sixth fare hike of the year, will remain in place, although it wasn't implemented on certain competitive routes.

Still, the outlook for American, the largest employer in North Texas, remains hazy because of high fuel prices.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities in New York, said he expects American to lose $4.42 per share, or about $700 million, in 2005. His previous estimate was $3.49 per share, or about $560 million, for the year.

"We are now assuming that oil prices will stay well above $40 a barrel during these time periods," he wrote in a report. "Like the rest of the industry, we believe this significant increase in oil prices is destroying any possibility of American returning to profitability anytime soon."

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines also reported an increase in traffic in April, although planes flew slightly less full. The airline's traffic was up nearly 10 percent, but the space available on its routes increased by 11 percent.

At Continental Airlines, based in Houston, unit revenue was up between 2 percent and 3 percent for the month. Continental is the only airline that reports monthly revenue, so its results are closely watched.

"A good start to a seasonally strong quarter," said Jamie Baker, an airline analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities, in a note to investors.

Continental's overall traffic was up about 7 percent, and its average passenger loads per airplane rose about 1 percent.

Stock in AMR Corp. (ticker: AMR), American's parent company, rose 37 cents, or about 4 percent, to close at $10.72 per share. Southwest stock (LUV) slipped 1 cent to close at $14.99 per share.

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