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United, Continental Report 3Q Profits

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — United and Continental airlines both posted third-quarter profits during their last quarter as independent companies, reversing their losses from a year earlier as they benefited from rising traveler demand and higher fares.

United Airlines had a profit of $387 million, or $1.75 per share. A year earlier it lost $57 million.

Continental Airlines turned a profit of $354 million, or $2.16 per share. A year earlier it lost $18 million.

Chicago-based United Continental Holdings Inc. now runs both airlines and reported the results on Thursday. They were separate companies until Oct. 1, the day after the quarter ended. Eventually they will be combined into a single airline called United. The company will report combined results for the two airlines starting next quarter.

Revenue at United’s former parent company rose 21.7 percent to $5.39 billion. Continental revenue rose 19.2 percent to $3.95 billion.

Delta, American, and US Airways all reported quarterly profits on Wednesday. After struggling with high fuel prices in 2008 and a drop in business travel caused by the recession in 2009, conditions are finally right for airline profits. Even as travelers have returned, airlines have added back few additional seats, allowing them to raise fares.

United passengers paid 16.9 percent more for each mile flown during the quarter, compared with a year earlier. So-called yield rose 18.7 percent at Continental.

The biggest jumps were in revenue for overseas flights. Passenger revenue for flights across the Pacific — where United has an extensive schedule — rose 43.2 percent to $869 million. Passenger revenue for flights across the Atlantic rose 30.2 percent to $827 million. Domestic passenger revenue was up 7.7 percent to $2.1 billion.

Continental’s passenger revenue for flights across the Atlantic rose almost 31 percent to $848 million.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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