American Airlines lost nearly $1B last quarter due to Omicron

American Airlines lost $931 million in the fourth quarter of 2021 as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant delayed the industry’s recovery from the pandemic.

The country’s largest carrier reported revenue of $9.43 billion in the fourth quarter — which was down from $11.3 billion in the same quarter of 2019.

The airline expects revenues in the first quarter of 2022 to be down between 20% and 22% compared to the same period in 2019.

A year ago, American reported losses of almost $2.2 billion as government lockdown measures imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus decimated the travel industry.

Shares of American were recently off 0.1 percent at $17.28 on Thursday.

Doug Parker, who is stepping down as CEO of the Dallas-based company at the end of March, told CNBC on Thursday that the uncertainty of the last 18 months “has created the most challenging planning environment in the history of commercial aviation.”

“Over the past year, we have experienced periods of high travel demand countered by periods of decreased demand due to new COVID-19 variants,” Parker said.

The fourth quarter appeared promising as demand for travel surged during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

But the newly discovered Omicron variant led to staffing shortages that forced the company to cancel thousands of flights in December and January.

The largest US carrier said that the spread of the Omicron variant has delayed the airline industry’s recovery from pandemic lockdowns.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Earlier this week, United Airlines reported losses of $646 million in the fourth quarter.

The carrier said that Omicron-fueled surge, which also resulted in thousands of its own employees getting infected, forced it to cut back on the number of planned flights for the first six months of this year.

United expects first-quarter revenue to drop in the 20% to 25% range.

Domestic rival Delta reported a loss of $408 million in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said he expects “the next four to six weeks are going to be difficult.”

“What we do see in the booking data is Presidents’ weekend forward looks really robust,” he told CNBC last week.

“People are ready to travel.”

Bastian said nearly 10% of the company’s workforce — around 8,000 people — have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last four weeks.

Despite the turbulence, Bastian sounded an optimistic note about the future. He said the company had to cancel just 1% of its flights in the second week of January.

“So while the new variant is not done, it appears that the worst may be behind us,” he said.