CHICAGO – Major U.S. airlines will be reporting third-quarter earnings later than usual as they figure out how to account for government cash given to them in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, analysts said.
Some airlines have simply said they do not know when earnings will be released. Others have rescheduled dates ranging from one to two weeks later than originally planned.
Quarterly earnings for airlines normally fall within one to two days of each other.
``There's some question on how to account for funds they're (getting) from the government,'' said Merrill Lynch analyst Michael Linenberg. ``Different carriers have said different things.''
Some 95 U.S. airlines including freight carriers received $2.42 billion in government cash aid as of Friday, Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The government has the authority to release a total of $5 billion, with the second half of the moneys expected in a few weeks.
The grants range from just $340 to a firm called Grand Canyon Helicopters to $391 million for United Airlines.
ABN Amro analyst Ray Neidl added that airlines may also be holding back third-quarter data as they try to get a better handle on how traffic is faring, although he has no official word on that.
Analysts said it is likely airlines will report the cash as a special revenue item, although that also remains unclear.
PUTTING OFF THE DAY OF RECKONING
AMR Corp., the largest U.S. airline and parent of American Airlines and TWA, said it will report Oct. 24 instead of Oct. 17 but did not give a reason for the delay.
UAL Corp, parent of No. 2 United Airlines, does not yet have a date.
Two United jets were hijacked on Sept. 11, crashing into rural Pennsylvania and into the World Trade Center. Two American jets were also hijacked and crashed, one into the Pentagon and the other into the World Trade Center. All passengers and crew aboard all four planes were killed, along with thousands more in the twin towers and the Pentagon.
Both United and American announced shortly after the tragedy that they would pay the families of victims' on their planes an initial $25,000 each to deal with immediate needs.
No. 3 Delta Air Lines will now report earnings Nov. 1. No. 4 Northwest Airlines said it does not yet have a date. No. 5 Continental Airlines, the first airline to report how badly carriers were hurt after the attack, will be issuing earnings on Oct. 31.
No. 6 US Airways said it will report earnings on Oct. 30, while AirTran Holdings Inc. will report on Oct. 23.
Southwest Airlines, the only major carrier analysts believe may still post a profit, is still scheduled for the week of Oct. 15 but will probably report a few days later than originally planned, said a company spokeswoman.
Losses for major carriers covered by analysts are pegged at about $2.2 billion for the quarter, according to Goldman Sachs analyst Glenn Engel.