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Northwest, Continental Post Profits

October 17, 2003|From Bloomberg News

Northwest Airlines Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, and No. 5 Continental Airlines Inc. posted third-quarter profits Thursday as they filled a record percentage of seats.

Northwest's net income was $47 million, or 49 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $46 million, or 55 cents, in the same period last year, the St. Paul, Minn.-based company said. Houston-based Continental said net income was $133 million, or $1.83 a share, compared with a net loss of $37 million, or 58 cents.

The rise in summer leisure travel in the U.S. allowed the carriers to fill planes without much discounting. Deutsche Bank analyst Susan Donofrio said. Cost controls also helped, she said.

Shares of Northwest, which had been expected by analysts to report a loss, rose 95 cents, or 7.5%, to $13.70 on Nasdaq. Continental fell $1.74, or 8%, to $19.65 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Northwest's sales were little changed at $2.56 billion. The airline cut costs 5.7% to $2.41 billion. Spending on labor and fuel, its largest expenses, declined 2.3%. Traffic, measured in miles flown by paying passengers, fell 4% and seating capacity was cut 7%.

Northwest's planes averaged 81.4% filled, up 2.6 percentage points from the year-earlier period.

Continental's revenue increased 8.6% to $2.37 billion. The carrier's planes averaged 80% filled, up 4.3 percentage points from the same period last year. Traffic rose 3.2%.

Continental's costs rose 2.8% to $2.19 billion. Fuel expenses rose 15%.

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