American Airlines faces billions in net loss, but CLT remains a top performing hub

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American Airlines, the dominant carrier at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, reported major losses in October after seeing air travel dive due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the airline’s hubs at Charlotte and the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport were the “best performing hubs” this quarter compared to last year, airline leaders said.

The airline reported a net loss of $2.4 billion in the third quarter, the three months that ended on Sept. 30, according to the airline’s latest financial report.

That’s down from a $425 million net income at the same point last year, according to the report.

Though American President Robert Isom called Charlotte one of the company’s best performing hubs in the company’s quarterly earnings call Thursday, air travel demand is still down.

But Isom added: “During the quarter, we started to see signs of a slow but stead recovery in passenger demand.”

On average, the airline is operating 481 daily departures out of CLT this month, down from an average of 672 in October last year.

American CEO Doug Parker encouraged passengers to return to the sky in the Thursday call, saying: “If we could say one thing to every American Airlines customer, it’s that it’s safe to fly.”

The airline received a $5.5 billion loan from the federal government through the CARES Act program, but recently furloughed thousands of employees after CARES Act Payroll Support and employee protections expired last month.

More than 20,000 American employees opted for early retirement or long-term leave, and 19,000 employees were furloughed starting Oct. 1, according to the airline.

That includes about 900 furloughed Charlotte-based American employees out of more than 12,000 employees based in CLT pre-pandemic, airline spokesman Andrew Trull told the Observer in an email.

Returning to the air

Passenger numbers have been steadily rising at CLT, since dropping in March and April as the coronavirus pandemic hit North Carolina. In August, the number of passengers boarding planes in Charlotte surpassed 1 million for the first time since March.

In September, nearly 1.2 million people boarded planes leaving CLT — the highest number of departing passengers since the airport reported nearly 2 million in February.

American launched a new travel tool last month, to help passengers navigate travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tool allows American Airlines passengers to quickly check current COVID-19 travel guidelines for their domestic and international destinations.

And this month, CLT launched an online tool that allows passengers to check wait times at Charlotte security checkpoints ahead of time.

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©2020 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)