AirTran Airways managed to turn its fortunes around in 2009, posting a profit in a year in which some other airlines couldn’t manage to stay in the black.
The Orlando-based airline said it earned $134.7 million last year, compared with a loss of $266.3 million in 2008. Revenue in 2009 declined 8.3 percent from the prior year to $2.3 billion, but lower fuel costs and increased revenue from ancillary services such as baggage fees helped AirTran swing to an annual profit.
For the fourth quarter, the airline earned $17.1 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, compared with a loss of $121.6 million, or $1.03 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2008. Excluding unrealized gains on fuel-hedging contracts, the airline earned 7 cents a share in the October-through-December period.
Analysts had been expecting a profit of 3 cents a share.
“Despite a weak economy, 2009 marked a tremendous financial turnaround at AirTran,” said Bob Fornaro, the company’s chairman, president and chief executive officer. “We will continue to work diligently to position the company for both good times and bad.”
AirTran said it has performed particularly well in Orlando, where the airline has seen additional competition.
“It’s one of the bright stars,” said Kevin Healy, senior vice president of marketing and planning.
In light of its terrible losses in 2008, AirTran indicated it would continue to keep its growth in check again this year and focus on profitability.
“Our game plan’s pretty simple. We want to make sure the company’s on very firm footing,” Fornaro said. “It’s going to take two good years to really erase the performance we had in 2008.”