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Rising fuel costs cut into airline profits

April 22, 2011 |  4:24 pm

SouthwestfuelAfter enjoying soaring profits last year, the airline industry is again facing a cloudy financial future.

Rising fuel costs have cut into the profits of most of the nation's largest airlines, according to recently released financial records for the first three months of the year.

Jet fuel prices have increased more than 20% in the first two months of the year alone, according to the Air Transport Assn., the trade group that represents the nation's largest airlines.

United Continental Holdings Inc., one of the nation's largest airline companies, reported losing $213 million in the first three months of the year after it paid 34% more for fuel than in the same period last year. American Airlines posted $436 million in losses.

Low-cost rivals Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways Corp. both reported small profits--$5 million and $3 million respectively--after paying higher fuel costs.

--Hugo Martin

Photo: A Southwest Airlines employee refuels a jet at Oakland International Airport. Credit: Getty Images