AirTran Airways is flying high as some of its bigger rivals struggle to turn a profit. Parent company AirTran Holdings Inc. on Wednesday posted a profit of $17.1 million for the final quarter of 2009.
Executives were upbeat, but said they are looking for more. “While a lot of people are giving us an ‘Attaboy!’ for a great year, we are not satisfied with this,” Chief Financial Officer Arne Haak told analysts during a conference call.
The fourth-quarter profit compared to a loss of $121.6 million, or $1.03 a share, in the same period of 2008.
Revenue rose 1.5 percent to $598.4 million from $589.4 million.
For the year, AirTran’s profit of $134.7 million was a record. That was equivalent to 95 cents a share, compared to a loss of $266.3 million, or $2.44 a share, for 2008. Revenue fell to $2.34 billion from $2.55 billion in 2008.
AirTran, based in Orlando, Fla., has low costs that allow it to cut ticket prices and still make money. It ended 2009 with $543 million in unrestricted cash on hand.
Annual fuel costs fell $516 million from 2008. But fuel prices have risen in recent months. AirTran has hedged 40 percent of its 2010 fuel requirements with benefits beginning at $60 per barrel. Oil was trading in the $74 range on Wednesday.
AirTran said again that it expects to grow capacity by 3 percent to 4 percent in 2010 and 2 percent to 3 percent in 2011. Capacity is measured by available seats times miles flown. AirTran won’t take delivery of any more airplanes until 2011.
“I think there are going to be some opportunities for us, but I think the days of double-digit growth or more for carriers of our size, you’re just not going to see that happen,” CEO Robert Fornaro said.
The airline has its hub in Atlanta and has over 700 daily flights to 68 destinations.