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Fort Worth-based American Airlines reports a record loss of $8.9 billion in 2020

CEO Doug Parker called 2020 the most challenging year in the history of American Airlines. He remains optimistic about 2021, saying it will be a year of recovery.
Credit: AP
An American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport makes its landing approach onto Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Glen Burnie, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

FORT WORTH, Texas — Fort Worth-based American Airlines reported a net loss of $2.2 billion in its fourth quarter of 2020, according to an earnings report published Thursday. 

Overall, the airline announced a record net loss of $8.9 billion for the year after earning nearly $1.7 billion the year prior. 

"Our fourth-quarter financial results close out the most challenging year in our company’s history," said American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker.

American laid off thousands of employees in 2020 as a result of the financial impact from the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, furloughed team members have had their pay and benefits reinstated with the passage of a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package, according to the report. 

RELATED: American Airlines to furlough almost 3,300 North Texans

Parker said he couldn't be more proud of employees with the airline, despite the financial hardships. 

According to its earnings report, the airline total operating revenues totaled more than $17.3 billion in 2020. This includes revenue from passengers, cargo, and other areas such as airport lounges. That number was just above $4 billion for the fourth quarter.

"Through collaboration, resourcefulness, and hard work, our team did its part to keep the economy moving. The American team flew more customers than any other airline in 2020, and they did so safely and with the utmost care," Parker said. 

During the summer of 2020, American Airlines resumed booking flights to full capacity. Prior, American Airlines had limited the number of passengers on flights in an effort to space customers during the pandemic.  

Then in November, the airline stated it had successfully completed a trial flight testing the airline's thermal packaging and stress test processes to help ship the COVID-19 vaccine.

And last month, the airline began to offer at-home COVID-19 tests for flights to cities within the United States that had travel restrictions.

RELATED: American Airlines to offer at-home COVID-19 tests for flights to US cities with travel restrictions

Going forward American predicts that its first-quarter revenue will continue to be lower than that of years prior, but still an improvement from 2020. 

"Compared to the first quarter of 2019, American expects its first-quarter system capacity to be down 45%, with total revenue expected to be down 60 to 65%," the report states.

The airline remains hopeful as more states continue to vaccinate the public against COVID-19 during this new year. 

"As we look to the year ahead, 2021 will be a year of recovery," Parker said.

American said it has incorporated more than $1.3 billion of permanent non-volume, non-fuel efficiency cost-saving measures into its 2021 operating plan, according to the report. 

RELATED: Southwest Airlines saw annual loss of $3.1 billion as pandemic gripped globe

"While we don’t know exactly when passenger demand will return, as vaccine distribution takes hold and travel restrictions are lifted, we will be ready," Parker said. "We are confident that the actions we have taken to improve our customer experience, enhance our network, and increase our efficiency position us well for the future."

American ended its fourth quarter with about $14.3 billion in available liquidity.