American Airlines truly set itself apart from its peers in the third quarter—and not in a good way. AA posted a dismal 7.5% operating profit margin, nearly half of Delta’s 13.9% margin. But, with good reason, management remains optimistic. United, on the other hand, has plenty to smile about right now as it offset 100% of its rising fuel costs with rising revenues.
Southwest didn’t have trouble with fuel thanks to hedges, but non-fuel costs posed a headwind. Hawaiian Airlines posted the best Q3 margin of the major U.S. carriers. But Spirit might be the biggest winner of all, vaulting itself from the middle of the pack last year to nearly the front. JetBlue and Allegiant again stumbled. And although Alaska didn’t have a great result, there are plenty of reasons it should soon rejoin the leading carriers in the U.S.