5 On Your Side

Despite lower fuel costs, airlines still raking in big dollars

Posted January 20

Booking airline travel anytime soon? Despite lower fuel prices and analysis from experts who said airfares could drop in 2016, many passengers say they haven't seen any savings.

Even in the face of steep prices and low satisfaction ratings, consumers are flying.

In the first three quarters of 2015, U.S. airlines made almost $18 billion in total profit. Planes flew 85 percent full on average.

On Tuesday, Delta reported a record fourth quarter and an annual income of $5.9 billion.

Last week, Delta and four other carriers raised their fees.

"I think it's very hard for passengers to understand why fares aren't going down when airlines are making so much money, but they have to remember that airlines are a business and the bottom line is the bottom line," Charisse Jones, USA Today national business and travel reporter, said.

Since 1990, the airline industry has finished in the red 11 times. In 2005, airliners lost nearly $29 billion.

"What's good news for consumers is, when airlines are profitable, customers, the communities, investors and employees win because they're re-investing that money back into the business," Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for the industry, said.

About 10,000 jobs were created in 2015 by the airline industry, and on average, U.S. airlines added one new plane every day, she said.

As for fares, airlines say ticket prices dropped 3 percent last year. Despite that, airlines were on pace in September to pass 2014's record $3.5 billion in bag fees.

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  • Craig Elliott Jan 22, 2016
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    I heard a comment on the radio to the effect that after years of losses the airlines are finally putting something in the bank to cover the next lean year. From a business perspective I can understand that.