U.S. Airlines Show First Profit Since COVID-19 in 2nd Quarter 2021

A man using an airline check-in computer - Source WTTC
U.S. Airlines Show First Profit Since COVID-19 in 2nd Quarter 2021

U.S. scheduled passenger airlines reported a second-quarter 2021 after-tax net profit of $1.0 billion despite a pre-tax operating loss of $3.6 billion. The second-quarter results represent the first quarterly profit since the fourth quarter of 2019, the last quarter before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In the second quarter of 2021, the airlines reduced their first-quarter losses by 124%. The second-quarter after-tax net profit of $1.0 billion was a $5.2 billion net change from the first-quarter loss of $4.2 billion. The second-quarter pre-tax operating loss of $3.6 billion was a $9.1 billion reduction from the first-quarter loss of $12.7 billion.

U.S. airline financial reports are filed quarterly with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). See the tables that accompany this release on the BTS website for additional second-quarter 2021 financial results (Tables 1-6).

Payroll protection payments received by airlines are included in net income calculations as part of non-operating income.

Systemwide operations, includes 24 U.S. airlines:

After-tax net profit/loss (net income)

  • $1.0 billion profit in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $4.2 billion loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $11.0 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $4.8 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

Pre-tax operating profit/loss

  • $3.6 billion loss in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $12.7 loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $16.3 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $6.9 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

Total 2Q 2021 operating revenue: $31.6 billion
Share of total 2Q 2021 operating revenue:

  • Fares: $20.7 billion, 65.5%, compared to $4.0 billion in 2Q 2020
  • Baggage fees: $1.4 billion, 4.4%, compared to $221.2 million in 2Q 2020
  • Reservation change fees: $137.2 million, 0.4%, compared to $80.8 million in 2Q 2020

Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

Total 2Q 2021 operating expenses: $35.1 billion:
Share of total 2Q 2021 operating expenses:

  • Fuel: $5.5 billion, 15.6%, compared to $1.2 billion in 2Q 2020
  • Labor: $12.5 billion, 35.7%, compared to $11.3 billion in 2Q 2020

Domestic operations, includes 24 U.S. airlines:

After-tax domestic net profit/loss (net income)

  • $1.8 billion profit in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $2.4 billion loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $9.0 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $3.6 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

Pre-tax domestic operating profit/loss

  • $2.1 billion loss in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $9.6 billion loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $14.1 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $5.2 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

2Q 2021 domestic operating revenue: $26.4 billion
Share of total 2Q 2021 domestic operating revenue:

  • Fares: $17.3 billion, 65.7%, compared to $3.7 billion in 2Q 2020
  • Baggage fees: $1.1 billion, 4.3%, compared to $201.7 million in 2Q 2020
  • Reservation change fees: $121.0 million, 0.5%, compared to $62.8 million in 2Q 2020

Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

2Q 2021 domestic operating expenses: $28.5 billion
Share of total 2Q 2021 domestic operating expenses:

  • Fuel: $4.2 billion, 14.6%, compared to $898.3 million in 2Q 2020
  • Labor: $9.9 billion, 34.9%, compared to $9.5 billion in 2Q 2020

International operations, includes 19 U.S. airlines:

After-tax international net profit/loss (net income)

  • $773.8 million loss in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $1.8 billion loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $2.1 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $1.2 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

Pre-tax international operating profit/loss

  • $1.5 billion loss in 2Q 2021
  • Compared to $3.0 billion loss in 1Q 2021
  • Compared to $2.1 billion loss in 2Q 2020
  • Compared to $1.6 billion profit in pre-pandemic 2Q 2019

2Q 2021 international operating revenue: $5.1 billion
Share of total 2Q 2021 international operating revenue:

  • Fares: $3.3 billion, 64.7%, compared to $340.0 million in 2Q 2020
  • Baggage fees: $250.0 million, 4.9%, compared to $19.5 million in 2Q 2020
  • Reservation change fees: $16.3 million, 0.3%, compared to $18.0 million in 2Q 2020

Fees are included for calculations of net income, operating revenue and operating profit or loss.

2Q 2021 international operating expenses: $6.6 billion
Share of total 2Q 2021 international operating expenses:

  • Fuel: $1.3 billion, 20.0%, compared to $253.8 million in 2Q 2020
  • Labor: $2.6 billion, 39.3%, compared to $1.8 billion in 2Q 2020

2nd Quarter Margins

Net margin is the net income or loss as a percentage of operating revenue. Operating margin is the operating profit or loss as a percentage of operating revenue.

Systemwide:
Net margin:

  • 3.2% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -140.6% in 2Q 2020

Operating margin:

  • -11.3% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -207.0% in 2Q 2020

Domestic
Net margin:

  • 6.7% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -132.2% in 2Q 2020

Operating margin:

  • -7.9% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -208.7% in 2Q 2020

International
Net margin:

  • -15.1% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -193.0% in 2Q 2020

Operating margin:

  • -28.8% in 2Q2021
  • Compared to -196.0% in 2Q 2020