- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2010

DALLAS — American Airlines ended 2009 with a loss, and 2010 could have a rocky start if the carrier loses a key partner in the Asian market.

AMR Corp., the parent of American, said it lost $344 million in the fourth quarter and nearly $1.5 billion for all of 2009 as traffic fell and many business travelers stayed home or bought cheaper tickets in the weak economy.

Excluding special items, including a tax gain, AMR said Wednesday it would have lost $415 million, or $1.25 per share, in the fourth quarter. Analysts, who usually exclude items from their calculations, expected a loss of $1.23 per share.

Revenue fell 7.4 percent, to $5.06 billion, slightly higher than analysts’ forecast of $5.03 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

Now that the fourth-quarter accounting is done, investors will turn their attention to Japan, where American and AMR are scrambling to hold on to a valuable partnership with Japan Airlines.

JAL filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, and reports in the Japanese press said the airline wants to dump American and form a partnership with Delta Air Lines. That would mean a big decline in revenue for American.

American is also waiting to learn whether U.S. regulators will approve antitrust immunity for an international joint venture with British Airways and other carriers. A decision was expected last fall, but despite the delay, American still expects its request to be approved, said Gerard J. Arpey, chairman, president and CEO of AMR and American on Wednesday.

For all of 2009, AMR lost $1.47 billion, or $4.99 per share, compared with a loss of $2.12 billion, or $8.16 per share, in 2008. Revenue tumbled 16.2 percent to $19.92 billion, as $3.85 billion in revenue vanished with slow demand for travel. Spending on fuel fell 38 percent, however, to $5.55 billion — a savings of $4.46 billion — as prices fell from record levels in 2008.

AMR, based in Fort Worth, Texas, also owns the American Eagle commuter airline.

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