NEW YORK — With fresh red ink at Delta and US Airways, the five biggest US airlines showed a combined loss of more than $1 billion for the first quarter. Soaring jet fuel prices are the culprit.
The total loss was about $100 million larger than a year ago, even though jet fuel spending jumped 28 percent, nearly $1.9 billion. Airlines were able to narrow the difference in fuel spending with a 12 percent increase in revenue.
They have raised fares seven times since the start of the year and would like to keep doing that to offset higher fuel costs.
“We must fully recapture our costs on every flight, every day, to maintain and improve our earnings performance,’’ said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive.
Delta Air Lines Inc., which reported a $318 million loss yesterday, said fare increases covered 70 percent of the run-up in fuel costs for the first quarter.
US Airways Group lost $114 million in the quarter. It announced new reductions in its flying schedule in the second half of the year, which should cut costs and perhaps drive up fares.
United Continental Holdings Inc. and American Airlines’ parent, AMR Corp., reported huge losses last week. Southwest Airlines Co. was alone among the top five US airline operators in posting a profit, just $5 million.
The five airlines lost $1.08 billion in the first three months of this year, when several big storms in the United States and the earthquake in Japan compounded the problem of costly jet fuel. A year ago, the same airlines lost $978 million. Fuel spending jumped to $8.45 billion from $6.60 billion a year earlier.
Yesterday’s news about losses at Delta and US Airways was not as bad as analysts had feared. Also, tough talk about raising fares and cutting flights may have cheered investors.
Airline stocks have been hammered recently by rising oil prices. Delta shares are down 21 percent this year, while US Airways shares have lost 12 percent. With fuel costing more than $3 a gallon, airlines are culling flights.