Carriers hit by fuel hedging
Two of America's major carriers, Continental Airlines and US Airways have reported substantial losses for 2008.
Continental, the world's fifth largest airline, said its net loss for the year was $585m, compared to a $459m profit in 2007.
US Airways, one of the biggest carriers in America, recorded a loss for the year of $2.21bn, reversed from a $427m profit in 2007.
Both carriers also reported substantial fourth quarter losses. Continental's was $266m compared to $32m for the same period in 2007.
US said its loss for the last three months of 2008 was $541m, compared with a loss of $79m in the previous year.
Doug Parker, US's chairman and ceo, said the results reflected the "staggering increases" in fuel prices in 2008.
He added: "Had our 2008 fuel price including realized gains and losses on fuel hedging instruments remained at 2007 levels, the Company's fuel expense would have been approximately $1.4 billion lower.
"The impact of high oil prices acted as a catalyst for airlines to take unprecedented measures to bring the supply of seats back into balance with passenger demand.
"We believe these actions have significantly softened the blow from the economic downturn that we as an industry now face."
Continental blamed "weakening economic conditions and highly volatile fuel prices" for its losses.
The airline said that international premium class demand was also falling, particularly on transatlantic flights.
Jeff Smisek, its president and chief operating officer, told a press briefing that many business-class passengers were shifting from the front to the back of the aircraft.