From spending money to distributing vaccines: 5 things to watch for in quarterly airline results

Travelers wearing face masks check in at the Delta Air Lines Inc. check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in San Francisco, California, United States, Monday, December 21, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

the Coronavirus pandemic broke the US carrier profit streak for a decade. Analysts say U.S. airlines lost over $ 35 billion. “2020 has been the worst year in aviation history,” says Cowen airline analyst Helane Becker.

Quarantines, travel restrictions, closed attractions, ground business trips, or fear of catching the disease have kept millions of travelers from leaving planes. Positive vaccine news sparked a rally for airlines during the year, but it was not enough to undo the damage. American Airlines stocks fell 45% in 2020, Delta Airlines lost 31%, United Airlines lost 51% and Southwest fell 14%, while the S&P 500 rose 16%.

This month, airline executives will detail the brutal year and their, albeit bleak, outlook for 2021, starting with Delta before the market opens on Thursday. Analysts expect the carrier to report an adjusted loss per share of $ 2.48 for the fourth quarter and a 68% year-on-year decline in revenue to $ 3.67 billion. United are expected to follow suit on January 20 and Southwest on January 28.

Here’s what to look out for in their reports and words as the industry faces another tough year:

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