The airline industry as a whole may have a ways to go to weather the recession, but AirTran (along with Southwest) may have turned a corner slightly ahead of the pack. Today, the low-cost carrier reported a $78.4 million quarterly profit, a $93.3 million improvement over the same quarter last year, when the airline reported a net loss of $14.8 million.
2009 represents AirTran's best first-half performance since 2001, with load factors at an all-time high of 80 percent for the quarter. AirTran credits the good performance with its early reaction to the economic downturn last year, which includes reducing capacity, selling aircraft, and reassessing its fuel hedges.
According to USA Today, AirTran CFO Arne Haak said that the airline should have "one of the best years in the company's history." That is hands-down one of the most positive statements that has come out of the airline industry in 2009. Let's hope it turns out to be true.