American Airlines said on Thursday that it lost $1.6 billion in the first three months of the year, but like its peers, it projected optimism about the strength of the recovery in the months ahead.
“The demand environment is very strong,” Robert Isom, American’s chief executive, said in a statement. “As a result, we expect to be profitable in the second quarter based on our current fuel price assumptions.”
The airline said it had record sales in March, the first month since the beginning of the pandemic in which revenue exceeded that from the same month in 2019. For the second quarter of this year, American expects revenue to be about 6 to 8 percent higher than in the same quarter of 2019. That’s despite its expectations for capacity in the quarter to be down 6 to 8 percent from the 2019 quarter.
The carrier’s shares were up more than 10 percent in premarket trading after the earnings report.
American’s optimism about the months ahead aligns with similar projections from its peers. On Wednesday, United Airlines said it expected record revenue in the second quarter, with Scott Kirby, its chief executive, saying that demand is the strongest he’s seen in 30 years in the industry. Like American, Delta Air Lines said last week that March was its best sales month ever.
The year started off poorly for the industry, which struggled with widespread disruptions caused by bad weather and the spreading Omicron virus variant. But consumers quickly began flying in greater numbers, despite fast-rising fares. In recent weeks, the number of people screened at airport security checkpoints has been down only 10 percent compared with a similar period in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Leisure travel has led the recovery, but American and other airlines have reported steady improvement to corporate travel and international travel as more countries lift restrictions on visitors. The airline said it was prepared for a busy summer, having increased its work force by 12,000 since last summer.