Sunday, April 10, 2011

American Airlines CEO: 'We're facing a fuel crisis'

Just as major airlines have started getting their balance sheets back in order, they're bracing for the impact of skyrocketing oil prices.

"We're facing another fuel crisis, and crisis is not too strong of a word," said American Airlines CEO Gerard Arpey, speaking at a conference of business journalists in Dallas.

Last year, airlines had their best year in a decade, carving out a slim 2% profit margin. But oil prices have soared more than 20% in 2011, and that will increase jet fuel costs, which claim a large chunk of airline operating costs.

As violence in the Middle East and North Africa stokes fears that the political turmoil will spread to other oil producing countries, crude prices continue to climb. And that's adding upward pressure to fuel costs.

On Friday, crude oil prices settled at a fresh 2-1/2 year high of $112.79 a barrel.

Arpey said he's also concerned that higher energy prices will stall the economic recovery and decrease traffic as Americans pull back on overall spending, including travel budgets. (read more)