United Airlines Shows Recession-Era Troubles Are Fading

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Determining which industry suffered the most during the Great Recession is a matter of speculation, but when ABC News’s Tim Winship wrote in April 2010 that “Perhaps no group has suffered more than the airlines,” he had a point.

As a group, five of the nine largest airline operators in the United States reported losses in 2009 totaling nearly $4 billion. In particular, AMR Corp.’s (AAMRQ.PK) American Airlines, which lost $1.5 billion in 2009 and $2.1 billion the year before, noted in its 2009 annual report that “it will be very difficult for the Company to continue to fund its obligations on an ongoing basis and to return to profitability if the overall industry revenue environment does not improve substantially.”

Of course, American had other problems — in 2012, it was struggling with high labor costs and the fact that it had been left behind by the current trend toward consolidation in the airline industry. Even a Federal Aviation Administration report found that the sharp drop in commercial passenger travel during the recession years had resulted in a large loss of investor capital for the industry as a whole and profits.

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