United-Continental Airlines posts strong profits

Chicago-based carrier benefiting from higher fees

October 21, 2010

JJ Sutherland

Baggage fees, blanket fees, fees for legroom, and, I'm sure, soon there will be fees for oxygen. Well all those fees have added up to profits for airlines. They've been reporting stronger than expected quarterly profits. The newly combined United-Continental airlines reported joint profits of $840 million. Delta reported $360 million in income, US Airways made about a quarter billion, and American made a profit for the first time in two years.

Analysts say there are a few reasons for the profits. Those fees of course, as well as making sure that each flight is full, by cutting service, and that business travelers are returning to the air.

But those fuller flights and service cuts are being noticed by passengers. From the LA Times.

Complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation have been increasing for months, and were up 35% in August compared with the same month last year.

"Airline executives have been, and will continue to be, tone deaf to the increasing customer dissatisfaction with the airline industry," said Brandon Macsata, executive director of the Assn. of Airline Passenger Rights, a Washington-based nonprofit group.

But airlines probably won't be bringing back more planes, or offering more services. Instead, analysts warn, with increasing demand, and consolidation in the industry, expect the same level of service to cost more, fares will go up.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio.