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Fort Worth-based American Airlines reports net loss of $2 billion in 2021; APA members picket over scheduling issues

American Airlines expects its upcoming first-quarter total revenue to be down approximately 20% to 22% versus the first quarter of 2019.

FORT WORTH, Texas — American Airlines released its fourth-quarter earnings report Thursday and it shows they are down $9.4 billion, or 17%, compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. 

The Fort Worth-based company reported it took a net loss $921 million for the quarter and a loss of $2 billion for the year, even with federal assistance.

Based on current trends, the company said it expects its first-quarter capacity to be down approximately 8% to 10% compared to the first quarter of 2019. American Airlines expects its first-quarter total revenue to be down approximately 20% to 22% versus the first quarter of 2019.

Despite these losses, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he is "incredibly proud" of how his company's team has operated during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“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. "This volatility has created the most challenging planning environment in the history of commercial aviation. Yet the American team has delivered, growing back faster and further than any other U.S. airline to meet this unpredictable demand."

In December 2021, American Airlines announced Robert Isom would be stepping in as the airline's new CEO when Parker retires in late March.

American Airlines announced its first profit since the start of the pandemic in July 2021, reporting an income of $19 million after factoring in $1.4 billion in special credits, including from the government's Payroll Support Program Agreements.

Without those credits, the company had a loss of $1.1 billion.

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In 2021 compared to 2020, American Airlines had improved its performance in on-time arrivals, on-time departures and completion factor, according to the press release.

The company’s on-time performance in December was better than any December in years prior to the pandemic, the airline said.

“We’re very proud of the way our team delivered throughout 2021,” Isom said. “Looking forward, our focus in 2022 will be to continue running a reliable airline, returning to profitability, and delivering on our long-term plan to deleverage the balance sheet.”

American Airlines ended the fourth quarter of 2021 with $15.8 billion of total available liquidity, the highest year-end liquidity balance in company history.

The airline also announced in November 2021 that it plans to build a new 15,000+-square-foot Admirals Club in Austin. The lounge will seat more than 250 customers, making it the largest airport lounge in Austin. Construction will begin later this year.

Allied Pilots Association holds picket over scheduling, cancellation issues

This report came out on the same day members of the Allied Pilots Association picketed at Terminal C of DFW Airport in support of the association's negotiating committee, which initiated daily bargaining sessions with their management counterparts on Tuesday. 

These sessions are a continuation of contract negotiations that began in February 2019.

“We are out here in the cold in Dallas, but we already feel the heat of the spring and summer travel,” Allied Pilots Association spokesperson Capt. Dennis Tajer said.

The APA told WFAA more than 160 American Airlines pilots gathered at DFW Airport’s Terminal C for Thursday’s demonstration.

The Allied Pilots Association has proposed scheduling reforms that leaders say would support the safety margin and respect pilots’ and passengers’ needs. The pilots want scheduling reform to improve what they call American's industry lagging operational and financial performance.

“We’re out here for an improved schedule, which will lead to improved quality of life for our pilots but most importantly, will make sure our passengers get what they pay for: And that’s a reliable airline,” Tajer said. 

Credit: Darryl Golden

In October 2021, American Airlines canceled more than 1,000 flights in one weekend alone, blaming bad weather and a shortage of staff. It left frustrated passengers stranded at DFW Airport.

Tajer said American Airlines pilots want a more flexible and efficient scheduling system that incentivizes them to jump in and help, which will help prevent delays and cancellations down the line during bad weather. 

Top brass at American was asked about labor negotiations during their quarterly earnings call Thursday.

“It has to be a mindset of taking care of our team members certainly, but also making sure we take care of the company and our shareholders. And that’s a balance that we’ve always been able to maintain. And we’ll do going forward,” current AA president and incoming AA CEO Robert Isom said. 

“So as I take a look going forward, I know that we can attract team members to American Airlines. And there’s always ways we can get better. And by better, it means running an airline that’s more reliable, too. And I know everybody’s joined in that goal," he said. 

On the quarterly earnings call, American Airlines leadership also acknowledged the level of calls they’re getting from flyers is “unprecedented” due to schedule changes, travel restrictions, and other factors. To help with long wait times, they’re “investing in things like chats and call back functions.”

APA held a similar picket at DFW in January 2020, shortly before the pandemic was declared.

Even though the pilots are picketing, this does not mean any kind of pilot strike or walkout is imminent.