Continental Airlines 10-K 2010
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Continental Airlines, Inc., a Delaware corporation incorporated in 1980, is a major U.S. air carrier engaged in the business of transporting passengers, cargo and mail. The terms "Continental," "we," "us," "our" and similar terms refer to Continental Airlines, Inc. and, unless the context indicates otherwise, its consolidated subsidiaries.
We are the world's fifth largest airline as measured by the number of scheduled miles flown by revenue passengers in 2009. Including our wholly-owned subsidiary, Continental Micronesia, Inc. ("CMI"), and regional flights operated on our behalf under capacity purchase agreements with other carriers, we operate more than 2,000 daily departures. As of December 31, 2009, we flew to 118 domestic and 124 international destinations and offered additional connecting service through alliances with domestic and foreign carriers. We directly served 28 Trans-Atlantic destinations, 11 Canadian cities, seven South American cities and four Trans-Pacific destinations from the U.S. mainland as of December 31, 2009. In addition, we provide service to more destinations in Mexico and Central America than any other U.S. airline, serving 39 cities. Through our Guam hub, CMI provides extensive service in the western Pacific, including service to more Japanese cities than any other U.S. carrier.
General information about us, including our Corporate Governance Guidelines and the charters for the committees of our Board of Directors, can be found on our website, continental.com. Our Board has adopted the "Ethics and Compliance Guidelines," which apply to all directors, officers and employees of Continental and its subsidiaries and serve as our "Code of Ethics" under Item 406 of Regulation S-K and as our "Code of Business Conduct and Ethics" as required by Section 303A.10 of the New York Stock Exchange ("NYSE") Listed Company Manual. The Ethics and Compliance Guidelines also are available on our website, and future amendments to or waivers from compliance with these guidelines will be disclosed on our website in accordance with Item 5.05 of Form 8-K.
Copies of these charters and guidelines are available in print to any stockholder who requests them. Written requests for such copies may be directed to our Secretary at Continental Airlines, Inc., P.O. Box 4607, Houston, Texas 77210-4607. Electronic copies of our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K, as well as any amendments and exhibits to those reports, are available free of charge through our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we file them with, or furnish them to, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC").
Information on our website is not incorporated into this Form 10-K or our other securities filings and is not a part of them.
This Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements that are not limited to historical facts, but reflect our current beliefs, expectations or intentions regarding future events. All forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. For examples of those risks and uncertainties, see the cautionary statements contained in Item 1A. "Risk Factors." See Item 1A. "Risk Factors" and Item 7. "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Overview" for a discussion of trends and factors affecting us and our industry. Also see Item 8. "Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 18 - Segment Reporting" for financial information about each of our business segments. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date of this report, except as required by applicable law.
We operate our domestic route system primarily through our hubs in the New York metropolitan area at Newark Liberty International Airport ("New York Liberty"), in Houston, Texas at George Bush Intercontinental Airport ("Houston Bush") and in Cleveland, Ohio at Hopkins International Airport ("Cleveland Hopkins"). Each of our domestic hubs is located in a large business and population center, contributing to a large amount of "origin and destination" traffic. Our hub system allows us to transport passengers between a large number of destinations with substantially more frequent service than if each route were served directly. The hub system also allows us to add service to a new destination from a large number of cities using only one or a limited number of aircraft. As of December 31, 2009, we operated 75% of the average daily departures from New York Liberty, 84% of the average daily departures from Houston Bush and 65% of the average daily departures from Cleveland Hopkins, in each case based on scheduled passenger departures and including regional flights flown for us under capacity purchase agreements.
We directly serve destinations throughout Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. We also provide service to numerous other destinations through codesharing arrangements with other carriers and have extensive operations in the western Pacific conducted by CMI. As measured by 2009 available seat miles, approximately 51% of our mainline operations is dedicated to international service.
New York Liberty is a significant international gateway for our operations. From New York Liberty, we served 28 Trans-Atlantic destinations, four Trans-Pacific destinations, eight cities in Canada, four cities in Mexico, seven cities in Central America, four cities in South America and 16 Caribbean destinations at December 31, 2009. We expect to begin daily service between New York Liberty and Munich, Germany in March 2010.
Houston Bush is the focus of our flights to destinations in Mexico and Central and South America. As of December 31, 2009, we flew from Houston Bush to 29 cities in Mexico, ten cities in Central America, seven cities in South America, six Caribbean destinations, four cities in Canada, four cities in Europe and Tokyo.
At December 31, 2009, we flew from Cleveland Hopkins to two cities in Canada, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Cancun, Mexico.
From its hub operations based on the island of Guam, as of December 31, 2009, CMI provided service to nine cities in Japan, more than any other U.S. carrier, as well as other Pacific rim destinations, including Manila, Philippines and Cairns, Australia. CMI is the principal air carrier in the Micronesian Islands, where it pioneered scheduled air service in 1968. CMI's route system is linked to the U.S. mainland through Tokyo and Honolulu, each of which CMI serves non-stop from Guam. CMI began service from Guam and Honolulu to Nadi, Fiji in December 2009.
See Item 8. "Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 18 - Segment Reporting," for operating revenue by geographical area.
We have extensive commercial relationships with other airlines, which are often referred to generally as “alliances” and may include (a) codesharing (one carrier placing its name and flight number, or "code," on flights operated by the other carrier), (b) reciprocal frequent flyer program participation, reciprocal airport lounge access and other joint activities (such as seamless check-in at airports) and/or (c) capacity purchase agreements. Alliances allow airlines to develop their route structures by enabling them to offer their passengers greater destination coverage, while providing member airlines with the potential for both increased revenues and cost savings. We seek in particular to develop international alliance relationships that complement our own route system and permit expanded service through our hubs to major international destinations. International alliances enable us to provide our passengers better connecting service from our international flights to other destinations beyond an alliance airline’s hub and expand the product line that we may offer in a foreign destination.
On October 27, 2009, we joined Star Alliance. Star Alliance was established in 1997 as the first global airline alliance to offer customers worldwide reach and a smooth travel experience. As a member of Star Alliance, we have bilateral commercial agreements with all 25 other Star Alliance members, including reciprocal earning and redemption of frequent flyer miles. The members are Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways (“ANA”), Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, British Midland Airways (“bmi”), Brussels Airlines, EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines (“SAS”), Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines (“United”) and US Airways. Regional member carriers Adria Airways (Slovenia), Blue1 (Finland) and Croatia Airlines enhance the global network. Aegean Airlines, Air India and TAM Airlines have also been accepted as future members. Overall, Star Alliance network offers more than 19,700 daily flights to 1,077 destinations in 175 countries.
As of December 31, 2009, we also had codesharing agreements with Star Alliance members United, Lufthansa, Air Canada, bmi and Asiana Airlines. Codesharing with additional airlines in Star Alliance is being implemented, with codesharing with Air New Zealand, ANA and SAS expected to begin in March 2010.
On July 10, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) approved our application to join United and a group of eight other carriers within Star Alliance that already hold antitrust immunity. This approval enables us, United and these other immunized Star Alliance carriers to work closely together to deliver highly competitive international flight schedules, fares and service and provides competitive balance to antitrust-immunized carriers in SkyTeam. Additionally, we, United, Lufthansa and Air Canada are permitted under antitrust immunity to establish a trans-Atlantic joint venture to create a more efficient and comprehensive trans-Atlantic network for our respective customers, offering those customers more service, scheduling and pricing options and establishing a framework for
similar joint ventures in other regions of the world. The DOT’s approval of antitrust immunity is subject to certain conditions and limitations that are not expected to diminish materially the benefits of our participation in Star Alliance or the trans-Atlantic joint venture. On December 23, 2009, we, United and ANA filed an application with the DOT for antitrust immunity to enable the three carriers to establish a trans-Pacific joint venture, offering similar benefits to our trans-Pacific customers. We are seeking a modification to our pilot collective bargaining agreement to permit us to engage in revenue sharing with a domestic air carrier, which is a component of the proposed joint ventures.
In addition to our current participation in Star Alliance, we have a domestic codesharing agreement with Hawaiian Airlines and international codesharing agreements with Copa Airlines (an airline based in Panama), Emirates (the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates), EVA Airways Corporation (an airline based in Taiwan), Virgin Atlantic Airways and French rail operator SNCF. Additionally, we have codeshare agreements with Gulfstream International Airlines, Hyannis Air Service, Inc. ("Cape Air"), Colgan Air, Inc. ("Colgan") and Hawaii Island Air, Inc. ("Island Air"), who provide us with commuter feed traffic. We also have a train-to-plane alliance with Amtrak.
We have regional capacity purchase agreements with ExpressJet Airlines, Inc. ("ExpressJet"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of ExpressJet Holdings, Inc. ("Holdings"), Chautauqua Airlines, Inc., ("Chautauqua"), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings, Inc., Colgan Air, Inc. (“Colgan”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines Corp., and Champlain Enterprises, Inc. ("CommutAir"). See Item 8. "Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 16 - Regional Capacity Purchase Agreements" for further discussion of our capacity purchase agreements.
Except for the four regional capacity purchase agreements listed above, all of our codeshare relationships are currently free-sell codeshares, where the marketing carrier sells seats on the operating carrier's flights from the operating carrier's inventory, but takes no inventory risk. In contrast, under our capacity purchase agreements, we (as the marketing carrier) purchase all seats on covered flights and are responsible for all scheduling, pricing and seat inventories. Some of our alliance relationships include other cooperative undertakings such as joint purchasing, joint corporate sales contracts, airport handling, facilities sharing or joint technology development.
Our regional operations are conducted by other operators on our behalf, primarily under capacity purchase agreements. We schedule and market the regional flights provided for us by other operators under capacity purchase agreements. Our regional operations using regional jet aircraft are conducted under the name "Continental Express" by ExpressJet and Chautauqua, and those using turboprop aircraft are conducted under the name "Continental Connection" by CommutAir and Colgan. As of December 31, 2009, our regional operators served 102 destinations in the United States, 26 cities in Mexico and eight cities in Canada. This regional service complements our operations by carrying traffic that connects onto our mainline jets and allows more frequent flights to smaller cities than could be provided economically with mainline jet aircraft. Additional commuter feed traffic currently is provided to us by other alliance airlines, as discussed above.
Under our capacity purchase agreement with ExpressJet (the “ExpressJet CPA”), we purchase all of the capacity from the ExpressJet flights covered by the agreement. In exchange for ExpressJet's operation of the flights and performance of other obligations under the ExpressJet CPA, we have agreed to pay ExpressJet a pre-determined rate, subject to annual inflation adjustments (capped at 3.5%), for each block hour flown (the hours from gate departure to gate arrival) and to reimburse ExpressJet for various pass-through expenses (with no margin or mark-up) related to the flights, including aviation insurance, property taxes, international navigation fees, depreciation (primarily aircraft-related), landing fees and certain maintenance expenses. Under the ExpressJet CPA, we are responsible for the cost of providing fuel for all flights and for paying aircraft rent for all of the aircraft operated on our behalf. The ExpressJet CPA also contains incentive bonus and rebate provisions based upon ExpressJet's operational performance.
The capacity purchase provisions of the ExpressJet CPA currently cover a minimum of 190 regional jets and, as of December 31, 2009, ExpressJet operated 212 Embraer 50-seat regional jets under those provisions of the contract. The minimum number of covered aircraft will be reduced as leases on covered aircraft expire. The ExpressJet CPA will expire in June 2015, with provisions for an appropriate wind-down period, and has no renewal or extension options. ExpressJet also subleases 32 Embraer 50-seat regional jets from us that are not operated on our behalf.
Chautauqua operates 50-seat regional jets as a Continental Express carrier under a capacity purchase agreement (the "Chautauqua CPA"). As of December 31, 2009, 22 aircraft were being flown by Chautauqua for us. The Chautauqua CPA requires us to pay Chautauqua a fixed fee, subject to annual inflation adjustments (capped at 3.5%), for each block hour flown for its operation of the aircraft. Chautauqua supplies the aircraft that it operates under the agreement. Aircraft are scheduled to be removed from service under the Chautauqua CPA each year through 2012, provided that we have the unilateral right to extend the Chautauqua CPA on the same terms on an aircraft-by-aircraft basis for a period of up to five years in the aggregate for 20 aircraft and for up to three years in the aggregate for seven aircraft, subject to the renewal terms of the related aircraft lease. Chautauqua also subleases five Embraer 37-seat aircraft from us that are not operated on our behalf.
Colgan operates fourteen 74-seat Bombardier Q400 twin-turboprop aircraft as a Continental Connection carrier on short and medium-distance routes from New York Liberty on our behalf. Colgan operates the flights under a capacity purchase agreement with us. In January 2009, we amended the capacity purchase agreement to increase by 15 the number of Q400 aircraft to be operated by Colgan on our behalf. We expect that Colgan will begin operating these 15 additional aircraft as they are delivered, beginning in the third quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011. Each aircraft is scheduled to be covered by the agreement for ten years following the date such aircraft is delivered into service thereunder. Colgan supplies all of the aircraft that it operates under the agreement.
Our capacity purchase agreement with CommutAir (the "CommutAir CPA") provides for CommutAir to operate sixteen 37-seat Bombardier Q200 twin-turboprop aircraft as a Continental Connection carrier on short distance routes from Cleveland Hopkins and New York Liberty. CommutAir supplies all of the aircraft that it operates under the agreement.
As with other major domestic hub-and-spoke carriers, a majority of our revenue comes from tickets sold by travel agents. Although we generally do not pay base commissions, we often negotiate compensation to travel agents based on their performance in selling our tickets or based on competitive conditions in particular markets. A significant portion of our revenue, including a significant portion of our higher yield traffic, is derived from bookings made through third party global distribution systems ("GDSs") used by many travel agents and travel purchasers.
We use the internet to provide travel-related services for our customers and to reduce our overall distribution costs. We have marketing agreements with internet travel service companies such as Expedia, Hotwire, Orbitz and Travelocity. Although customers' use of the internet has helped to reduce our distribution costs, it also has lowered our yields because it has enhanced the visibility of competing fares offered by other carriers.
Our website, continental.com, is our lowest cost distribution channel. We recorded approximately $3.2 billion in ticket sales on continental.com in 2009. The site offers customers the ability to purchase, change and refund tickets on-line, to check-in on-line and to have direct access to information such as schedules, reservations, flight status, frequent flyer account information (including the ability to redeem and change reward travel) and Continental travel specials. Tickets purchased through our website accounted for 30% of our passenger revenue during 2009.
Substantially all of our sales involve our electronic ticketing, or e-ticket, product. Our e-ticket product enables us to process customer and revenue information more efficiently. E-ticketed passengers have the ability to check-in at continental.com for all domestic and international travel. On-line check-in allows customers to obtain a printed or electronic boarding pass from their home, office or hotel up to 24 hours prior to departure and to proceed directly to security at the airport, bypassing the ticket counter and saving time. Passengers with baggage who check-in on-line may use special kiosks at our hub airports to check their bags rapidly. E-ticketed passengers also can use self-service kiosks to check-in. Our customers have access to approximately 1,600 Continental self-service kiosks at 173 airports throughout our system, including all domestic airports we serve. During 2009, 84% of all check-ins were done on-line or at self-service kiosks.
Our first aircraft equipped with our new flat-bed BusinessFirst seats began service in the fourth quarter of 2009. These seats, which will be offered on long-haul international routes, allow customers to lie completely flat and provide 6½ feet of sleeping space in the fully extended position (six feet four inches on Boeing 757-200 aircraft). The seats include laptop power and feature 15.4-inch video monitors. We will install the flat-bed seats on our entire fleet of Boeing 777, 757-200 and 767-200 aircraft and substantially all of our 767-400 aircraft, as well as on our Boeing 787 fleet as those aircraft are delivered to us.
Our Boeing 777 and 757-200 aircraft are currently equipped with Audio Video on Demand entertainment systems in each BusinessFirst/first class and economy seat. Customers can start, stop, pause, rewind or fast forward movies and music at any time. The system features a large selection of movies, television shows, music and interactive video games. The system will also be provided on other aircraft equipped with flat-bed seats as those seats are installed.
We are installing DIRECTV® satellite programming on our entire fleet of narrowbody Next-Generation Boeing 737 aircraft (737-700, 737-800,737-900 and 737-900ER aircraft) and Boeing 757-300 aircraft. DIRECTV® offers customers the choice of more than 100 channels of live television and previously recorded programming. This service is complimentary in first class and available at each seat in economy class for a fee. We have completed installation of DIRECTV® on 48 aircraft as of December 31, 2009 and expect to complete installation of DIRECTV® on our entire fleet of Boeing 737 Next-Generation aircraft by the end of 2010 and our Boeing 757-300 aircraft by mid-2011.
We introduced the cashless cabin in the fourth quarter of 2009, and expect to have a cashless environment on-board our entire fleet by early in the second quarter of 2010. In a cashless cabin, flight crews accept credit and debit cards exclusively for on-board purchases.
Our Presidents Club lounges offer a wide range of amenities to make customers’ travel experience productive and enjoyable. Services offered include complimentary beverages, light snacks and bar service, assistance with arrangements for travel on us, high-speed wireless Internet access, local telephone calls and fax machines. Arrival shower facilities are available at select locations. The lounges are available to Presidents Club members and to BusinessFirst customers, Star Alliance Gold Elite members and Star Alliance international first and business class customers on the day of travel.
During 2008, we began implementation of our joint project with the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") to be the first U.S. carrier to launch a paperless boarding pass pilot program that allows passengers to receive boarding passes electronically on their cell phones or PDAs, and use those devices to pass through security and board the aircraft. The new technology heightens the ability to detect fraudulent boarding passes while improving customer service and reducing paper use. This service is currently available at each of our hubs and other select airports.
We offer a carbon offsetting program developed in partnership with non-profit Sustainable Travel International. This program allows customers to view the carbon footprint of their booked itinerary and choose among a number of options to reduce the impact of carbon dioxide emissions of their flights. For customers who elect to participate in this program, their contributions are made directly to Sustainable Travel International to fund the purchase of offsets, which are generated from sustainable development projects including reforestation, renewable energy and energy conservation. We receive no revenue related to this program.
We maintain our "OnePass" frequent flyer program to encourage repeat travel. OnePass allows passengers to earn mileage credits by flying on us and certain other alliance carriers. We also sell mileage credits to credit/debit card companies, hotels, car rental agencies, utilities and various shopping and gift merchants participating in OnePass. Mileage credits can be redeemed for free, discounted or upgraded travel on Continental, Continental Express, Continental Connection, CMI or alliance airlines. Most travel awards are subject to capacity limitations.
During 2009, OnePass participants claimed approximately 1.3 million round-trip awards. Frequent flyer awards accounted for an estimated 6.0% of our consolidated revenue passenger miles. We believe displacement of revenue passengers by passengers who redeem rewards earned by flying on us is minimal given our ability to manage frequent flyer inventory and the low ratio of OnePass award usage to revenue passenger miles. At December 31, 2009, we had an outstanding liability associated with approximately 2.6 million free round-trip travel awards that were expected to be redeemed for free travel on Continental, Continental Express, Continental Connection, CMI or alliance airlines. See Item 7. "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates - Frequent Flier Accounting" for a detailed discussion concerning the accounting treatment of our OnePass frequent flier program.
Our EliteAccess service is offered to OnePass members who qualify for Elite status (based on the number of paid flight miles and the fares purchased in a calendar year), first class and BusinessFirst ticket holders and travelers with high-yield coach tickets who qualify as Elite for the Day. EliteAccess passengers receive preferential treatment in the check-in, boarding and baggage claim areas, are not charged fees for checked bags and have special security lanes at certain airports. We also provide a guarantee of no middle seat assignment for those passengers using a full-fare, unrestricted ticket.
The U.S. airline industry is characterized by substantial competition with respect to fares, fees, routes and services, which is particularly pronounced in domestic markets. Carriers use discount fares to stimulate traffic during periods of slack demand, or when they begin service to new cities or have excess capacity, to generate cash flow and to establish, increase or preserve market share. Many of our competitors have greater financial resources and/or lower cost structures than we do, in some cases as the result of their bankruptcies and/or mergers. In recent years, the domestic market share held by low-cost carriers has increased significantly and is expected to continue to increase. The increased market presence of low-cost carriers, which engage in substantial price discounting, has diminished the ability of the network carriers to maintain sufficient fare levels in domestic markets to achieve and sustain profitability. We cannot predict whether or for how long these trends will continue.
In addition to price competition, airlines also compete for market share by increasing the size of their route system and the number of markets they serve. Several of our domestic competitors are continuing to increase their international capacity, including service to some destinations that we currently serve. Additionally, the "open skies" agreement between the United States and the European Union, which became effective on March 30, 2008, is resulting in increased competition from European and U.S. airlines in these international markets, and may give rise to additional consolidation or better integration opportunities among European carriers. The “open skies” agreement between the United States and Japan announced in December 2009 is also likely to increase competition in affected markets if it becomes effective. The increased competition in these international markets, particularly to the extent our competitors engage in price discounting, may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
We also compete with U.S. and foreign carriers, including major network carriers, low-cost carriers and regional carriers, throughout our global network on the basis of scheduling, availability of non-stop and connecting flights, on-time performance, type of equipment, cabin configuration, amenities provided to passengers, frequent flyer programs, on-board products, markets served and other services.
We are also facing stronger competition from carriers that have participated in industry consolidation or expanded airline alliances and joint ventures. See Item 1A. "Risk Factors - Risk Factors Relating to the Airline Industry - The airline is highly competitive and susceptible to price discounting" below for a discussion of the competitive advantages enjoyed by carriers participating in industry consolidation and/or airline alliances and joint ventures.
As of December 31, 2009, we had approximately 41,300 employees, which, due to the number of part-time employees, represents 39,640 full-time equivalent employees consisting of approximately 16,225 customer service agents, reservations agents, ramp and other airport personnel, 8,740 flight attendants, 6,195 management and clerical employees, 4,270 pilots, 4,090 mechanics and 120 dispatchers. Approximately 45% of our full-time equivalent employees are represented by unions as of December 31, 2009. The following table reflects the principal collective bargaining agreements, and their respective amendable dates, of Continental and CMI:
On February 12, 2010, the National Mediation Board informed us that our fleet service employees had voted in favor of representation by the Teamsters. The election covers approximately 7,600 employees, or 6,340 full-time equivalent ramp, operations and cargo agents.
Approximately 97% of our full-time equivalent employees represented by unions as of December 31, 2009 are covered by collective bargaining agreements that are currently amendable or become amendable in 2010. The collective bargaining agreements with our pilots, mechanics and certain other work groups became amendable in December 2008 and those with our flight attendants and CMI mechanics became amendable in December 2009. On July 6, 2009, our flight simulator technicians ratified a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with us. With respect to our workgroups with amendable contracts, we have been meeting with representatives of the applicable unions to negotiate amended collective bargaining agreements with a goal of reaching agreements that are fair to us and to our employees, but to date the parties have not reached new agreements. Negotiations often take considerable time. For example, we began negotiating with our pilots’ union in February 2007, and we only received their first economic proposal in December 2009. We cannot predict the outcome of our ongoing negotiations with our unionized workgroups, although significant increases in the pay and benefits resulting from new collective bargaining agreements could have a material adverse effect on us. Furthermore, there can be no assurance that our generally good labor relations and high labor productivity will continue.
Federal Regulations. We provide air transportation under certificates of public convenience and necessity issued by the DOT. These certificates may be altered, amended, modified or suspended by the DOT if public convenience and necessity so require, or may be revoked for intentional failure by the holder of the certificate to comply with the terms and conditions of a certificate. Continental and CMI each operate under a separate air carrier certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), which may be amended, suspended or revoked by the FAA if the public interest and safety in air commerce so require.
Airlines are regulated by the FAA, primarily in the areas of flight operations, maintenance, ground facilities and other technical matters. Pursuant to these regulations, we have established, and the FAA has approved, a maintenance program for each type of aircraft we operate that provides for the ongoing maintenance of our aircraft, ranging from frequent routine inspections to major overhauls.
Airlines are subject to extensive regulatory and legal compliance requirements that result in significant costs and can adversely affect us. Additional laws, regulations, airport rates and charges and growth constraints have been proposed from time to time that could significantly increase the cost of airline operations or reduce revenue. In addition, to address concerns about airport congestion, the FAA has designated certain airports, including New York Liberty, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (“Kennedy”) and LaGuardia Airport (“LaGuardia”) as “high density traffic airports,” and has imposed operating restrictions at these three airports, which may include capacity reductions. The FAA has also designated New York Liberty and Kennedy as Level 3 Coordinated Airports under the International Air Transport Association Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines, which requires us to participate in seasonal FAA procedures for capacity allocation and schedule coordination for New York Liberty and to have slots to operate at that airport. Additional restrictions on airline routes and takeoff and landing slots may be proposed that could affect rights of ownership and transfer. Although we do not believe that these current operating restrictions will have a material adverse effect on our operations at New York Liberty, we cannot predict the impact of future capacity constraints or allocations or other restrictions on our operations that might be imposed by the FAA, Congress or other regulators, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (the "Aviation Security Act") and related federal regulations, substantially all security screeners at airports are federal employees and significant other elements of airline and airport security are overseen and performed by federal employees, including federal security managers, federal law enforcement officers, federal air marshals and federal security screeners. Among other matters, the law mandates improved flight deck security, deployment of federal air marshals onboard flights, improved airport perimeter access security, airline crew security training, enhanced security screening of passengers, baggage, cargo, mail, employees and vendors, enhanced training and qualifications of security screening personnel, additional provision of passenger data to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and enhanced background checks.
Airports from time to time seek to increase the rates charged to airlines, and the ability of airlines to contest such increases has been restricted by federal statutes, DOT and FAA regulations and judicial decisions. Under the Aviation Security Act, funding for passenger security is provided in part by a per enplanement ticket tax (passenger security fee) of $2.50, subject to a $5 per one-way trip cap. The Aviation Security Act also allows the TSA to assess an aviation security infrastructure fee on each airline up to the total amount spent by that airline on passenger and property screening in calendar year 2000 and, starting in fiscal year 2005, to impose a new methodology for calculating assessments. TSA has continued to assess this fee on airlines. Furthermore, because of significantly higher security and other costs incurred by airports since September 11, 2001, many airports have significantly increased their rates and charges to airlines, including us, and may do so again in the future. Most airports where we operate impose passenger facility charges of up to $4.50 per segment, subject to an $18 per roundtrip cap.
In time of war or during a national emergency or defense-oriented situation, we and other air carriers could be required to provide airlift services to the Air Mobility Command under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program ("CRAF"). If we were required in the future to provide a substantial number of aircraft and crew to the Air Mobility Command under CRAF, our operations could be materially adversely affected.
International Regulations. The availability of international routes to U.S. carriers is regulated by treaties and related agreements between the United States and foreign governments. The United States typically follows the practice of encouraging foreign governments to accept multiple carrier designation on foreign routes, although certain countries have sought to limit the number of carriers allowed to fly these routes. Certain foreign governments impose limitations on the ability of air carriers to serve a particular city and/or airport within their country from the United States. Bilateral agreements between the United States and foreign governments often include restrictions on the number of carriers (designations), operations (frequencies), or airports (points) that can be served. When designations are limited, only a certain number of airlines of each country may provide service between the countries. When frequencies are limited, operations are restricted to a certain number of weekly flights (as awarded by the United States to the domestic carrier, based on the bilateral limits). When points are limited, only certain airports within a country can be served.
For a U.S. carrier to fly to any international destination that is not subject to an "open skies" agreement (meaning all carriers have access to any destination in a particular country), it must first obtain approval from both the United States and the foreign country where the destination is located, which is referred to as a "foreign route authority." Route authorities to some international destinations can be sold between carriers, and their value can vary because of limits on accessibility. For those international routes where there is a limit on the number of carriers or frequency of flights, studies have shown that these routes have more value than those without restrictions. To the extent foreign countries adopt open skies policies or otherwise liberalize or eliminate restrictions on international
routes, those actions would increase competition and potentially decrease the value of a route. We cannot predict what laws, treaties and regulations relating to international routes will be adopted or their resulting impact on us, but the overall trend in recent years has been an increase in the number of “open skies” agreements, as evidenced by “open skies” agreements between the United States and the European Union and between the United States and Japan (if it becomes effective). The impact of any future changes in governmental regulation of international routes could be significant.
Environmental Regulations. Many aspects of airlines' operations are also subject to increasingly stringent federal, state, local and foreign laws protecting the environment, including the imposition of additional taxes on airlines or their passengers. Future regulatory developments in the United States and abroad could adversely affect operations and increase operating costs in the airline industry. The European Union has issued a directive to member states to include aviation in its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme (“ETS”), which requires us to begin monitoring our emissions of carbon dioxide effective January 1, 2010 and have emissions allowances equal to the amount of our carbon dioxide emissions to operate flights to and from member states of the European Union in January 2012 and thereafter, including flights between the United States and the European Union. On December 16, 2009, we joined a lawsuit in the United Kingdom with the Air Transport Association of America, American Airlines (“American”) and United to challenge the extension of the European Union’s ETS to include aviation and the imposition of its requirements on us. In addition, non-EU governments are expected to challenge the application of the EU ETS to their airlines; however, we may be forced to comply with the EU ETS requirements during the pendency of a legal challenge. We may have to purchase emissions allowances through the EU ETS to cover EU flights that exceed our free allowances, which could result in substantial costs for us.
Other regulatory actions that may be taken in the future by the U.S. government, foreign governments (including the European Union), or the International Civil Aviation Organization to address climate change or limit the emission of greenhouse gases by the aviation sector are unknown at this time. Climate change legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress, including a proposal to require transportation fuel producers and importers to acquire allowances sufficient to offset the emissions resulting from combustion of their fuels. We cannot predict, however, if any such legislation will pass the Congress or, if passed and enacted into law, how it would specifically apply to the aviation industry. In addition, effective January 14, 2010, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) found that current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare. Although legal challenges and legislative proposals are expected that may invalidate this endangerment finding and the EPA’s assertion of authority under the Clean Air Act, the finding could result in EPA regulation of commercial aircraft emissions if EPA finds, as expected, that such emissions contribute to greenhouse gas pollution.
The impact to us and our industry from any additional legislation or regulations addressing climate change is likely to be adverse and could be significant, particularly if regulators were to conclude that emissions from commercial aircraft cause significant harm to the upper atmosphere or have a greater impact on climate change than other industries. Potential actions may include the imposition of requirements on airlines or transportation fuel producers and importers to purchase emission offsets or credits, which could require participation in emissions allowance trading (such as required in the European Union) and increase the cost of carbon-based fuels (such as jet fuel), substantial taxes on emissions and growth restrictions on airline operations, among other potential regulatory actions.
The DOT allows local airport authorities to implement procedures designed to abate special noise problems, provided those procedures do not unreasonably interfere with interstate or foreign commerce or the national transportation system. Some airports, including certain major airports serving Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County (California), Washington, D.C., Denver and San Francisco, have established airport restrictions to limit noise, including restrictions on aircraft types to be used and limits on the number and scheduling of hourly or daily operations. In some instances, these restrictions have caused curtailments in services or increased operating costs, and could limit our ability to expand our operations at the affected airports. Local authorities at other airports could consider adopting similar noise regulations. Some foreign airports, including major airports in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Japan, have adopted similar restrictions to limit noise, and in some instances our operations and costs have been adversely affected in the same manner as described above.
Item 1A. Risk Factors.
There are many factors that continue to threaten our operations, financial condition, results of operations and liquidity. These factors are discussed below.
Risk Factors Relating to the Company
Fuel prices or disruptions in fuel supplies could have a material adverse effect on us>. Expenditures for fuel and related taxes represent the largest single cost of operating our business. These costs include fuel costs on flights flown for us under capacity purchase agreements. Our operations depend on the availability of jet fuel supplies, and our results are significantly impacted by changes in jet fuel prices, especially during periods of high volatility such as 2008. If fuel prices rise significantly in a short period of time, we may be unable to increase fares or other fees sufficiently to offset fully our increased fuel costs.
We routinely hedge a portion of our future fuel requirements to protect against rising fuel costs. However, there can be no assurance that our hedge contracts will provide any particular level of protection against increased fuel costs or that our counterparties will be able to perform under our hedge contracts, such as in the case of a counterparty's bankruptcy. Because of the large volume of jet fuel that we consume in our business, entering into hedge contracts for any substantial portion of our future projected fuel requirements is costly. Additionally, a deterioration in our financial condition could negatively affect our ability to enter into new hedge contracts in the future.
Significant declines in fuel prices (such as those experienced in the last six months of 2008) may increase the costs associated with our fuel hedging arrangements to the extent we have entered into swaps or collars. Swaps and put options sold as part of a collar obligate us to make payments to the counterparty upon settlement of the contracts if the price of the commodity hedged falls below the agreed upon amount. Historically, declining crude oil prices have resulted in our being required to post significant amounts of collateral to cover potential amounts owed with respect to swap and collar contracts that have not yet settled. Additionally, lower fuel prices may result in increased industry capacity and lower fares, especially to the extent that reduced fuel costs justify increased utilization by airlines of less fuel efficient aircraft that are unprofitable during periods of higher fuel prices.
Fuel prices could increase dramatically and supplies could be disrupted as a result of international political and economic circumstances, such as increasing international demand resulting from a global economic recovery, conflicts or instability in the Middle East or other oil producing regions and diplomatic tensions between the United States and oil producing nations, as well as OPEC production decisions, disruptions of oil imports, environmental concerns, weather, refinery outages or maintenance and other unpredictable events.
Further volatility in jet fuel prices or disruptions in fuel supplies, whether as a result of natural disasters or otherwise, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and liquidity.
Disruptions in the global capital markets coupled with our high leverage may affect our ability to satisfy our significant financing needs or meet our obligations>. As is the case with many of our principal competitors, we have a high proportion of debt compared to our capital. We have a significant amount of fixed obligations, including debt, aircraft leases and financings, leases of airport property and other facilities and pension funding obligations. At December 31, 2009, we had approximately $6.3 billion of debt and capital lease obligations, including $2.1 billion that will come due by the end of 2011 (consisting of $1.0 billion during 2010 and $1.1 billion during 2011).
In addition, we have substantial non-cancelable commitments for capital expenditures, including the acquisition of new aircraft and related spare engines. To meet these obligations, we must access the global capital markets and/or achieve and sustain profitability. If there are future disruptions in the global capital markets, as were experienced in late 2008 through mid-2009, we may be unable to obtain financing or otherwise access the capital markets on favorable terms. See “Management’s Discussion of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Liquidity and Capital Resources” included in Item 7 of this report for a discussion of our obligations and the status of our efforts to meet our financing needs.
Credit rating downgrades could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity>. Reductions in our credit ratings may increase the cost and reduce the availability of financing to us in the future. We do not have any debt obligations that would be accelerated as a result of a credit rating downgrade. However, we would have to post additional collateral under our credit card processing agreements with Chase Bank USA, N.A. ("Chase") and American Express and under our workers' compensation program if our debt rating falls below specified levels, as described below.
Failure to meet our financial covenants would adversely affect our liquidity>. Our credit card processing agreement with Chase (the "Chase processing agreement") contains financial covenants which require, among other things, that we post additional cash collateral if we fail to maintain (1) a minimum level of unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, (2) a minimum ratio of unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments to current liabilities of 0.25 to 1.0 or (3) a minimum senior unsecured debt rating of at least Caa3 and CCC- from Moody's and Standard & Poor's, respectively. If a covenant trigger under the Chase processing agreement results in our posting additional collateral under that agreement, we would also be required to post additional collateral under our credit card processing agreement with American Express.
The amount of additional cash collateral that we may be required to post if we fail to comply with the financial covenants described above, which is based on our then-current air traffic liability exposure (as defined in each agreement), could be significant. See “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 19 – Commitments and Contingencies” included in Item 8 of this report for a detailed discussion of our collateral posting obligations under these credit card processing agreements.
Depending on our unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments balance at the time, the posting of a significant amount of cash collateral could cause our unrestricted cash and short-term investments balance to fall below the minimum balance of $1.0 billion required under our $350 million secured term loan facility, resulting in a default under that facility. The posting of such additional collateral under these circumstances and/or the acceleration of amounts borrowed under our secured term loan facility (or other remedies pursued by the lenders thereunder) would likely have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
We are currently in compliance with all of the covenants under these agreements.
Our obligations for funding our defined benefit pension plans are affected by factors beyond our control>. We have defined benefit pension plans covering substantially all of our U.S. employees other than employees of our Chelsea Food Services division and CMI. The timing and amount of our funding requirements under these plans depend upon a number of factors, including labor negotiations and changes to pension plan benefits as well as factors outside of our control, such as the number of retiring employees, asset returns, interest rates and changes in pension laws. Changes to these and other factors, such as liquidity requirements, that can significantly increase our funding requirements could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
Our initiatives to increase revenues may not be adequate or successful>. As we seek to achieve and sustain profitability, we must continue to take steps to generate additional revenues. These measures include charging separately for services that previously had been included within the price of a ticket, charging for other goods and services and increasing our existing fees. We intend to introduce additional ancillary revenue initiatives in the future. We can offer no assurance that these new measures or any future initiatives will be successful in increasing our revenues. Additionally, the implementation of some of these initiatives could create technical and logistical challenges for us. Any new and increased fees or charges might also reduce the demand for travel on our airline or across the airline industry in general, particularly in light of current weakened global economic conditions.
Delays in scheduled aircraft deliveries continue to adversely affect our ability to expand our international capacity>. Because all of our widebody aircraft are already fully utilized, we will need to acquire additional widebody aircraft to grow internationally when the level of demand for international air travel supports such growth. We have contractual commitments to purchase the long-range widebody aircraft that we currently believe are necessary for our international growth, but significant delays in their deliveries have occurred. We have been, and continue to be, adversely impacted by those delays. If significant additional delays in the deliveries of these new aircraft occur, we will only be able to accomplish international growth by making alternate arrangements to acquire the necessary long-range aircraft, if available and possibly on less financially favorable terms, including higher ownership and operating costs.
Labor disruptions could adversely affect our operations>. Although we enjoy generally good relations with our employees, we can provide no assurance that we will be able to maintain these good relations in the future or avoid labor disruptions, including a strike. The amendable dates for many of our collective bargaining agreements have passed, including the agreements with the unions representing our pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. We are currently in talks with representatives of the applicable unions. We cannot predict the outcome of these negotiations, and any labor disruption, including a strike, that results in a prolonged significant reduction in flights would have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
Our labor costs may not be competitive>. Labor costs constitute a significant percentage of our total operating costs. All of the major hub-and-spoke carriers with whom we compete have achieved significant labor cost reductions, whether in or out of bankruptcy. Our wages, salaries and benefits cost per available seat mile, measured on a stage length adjusted basis, is higher than that of many of our competitors. These higher labor costs may adversely affect our ability to achieve and sustain profitability while competing with other airlines that have achieved lower relative labor costs. Additionally, we cannot predict the outcome of our ongoing negotiations with our unionized workgroups, although significant increases in the pay and benefits resulting from new collective bargaining agreements could have a material adverse effect on us.
If we experience problems with certain of our third party regional operators, our operations could be materially adversely affected>. All of our regional operations are conducted by third party operators on our behalf, primarily under capacity purchase agreements. Due to our reliance on third parties to provide these essential services, we are subject to the risks of disruptions to their operations, which may result from many of the same risk factors disclosed in this report. In addition, we may also experience disruption to our regional operations if we terminate the capacity purchase agreement with one or more of our current operators and transition the services to another provider. As our regional segment provides revenue to us directly and indirectly (by providing flow traffic to our hubs), a significant disruption to our regional operations could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
Interruptions or disruptions in service at one of our hub airports could have a material adverse effect on our operations>. We operate principally through our hub operations at New York Liberty, Houston Bush, Cleveland Hopkins and Guam. Substantially all of our flights either originate from or fly into one of these locations, contributing to a large amount of "origin and destination" traffic. A significant interruption or disruption in service at one of our hubs resulting from air traffic control delays, weather conditions, growth constraints, relations with third party service providers, failure of computer systems, labor relations, fuel supplies, terrorist activities, security breaches or otherwise could result in the cancellation or delay of a significant portion of our flights and, as a result, our business could be materially adversely affected.
We could experience adverse publicity and declining revenues as a result of an accident involving our aircraft or the aircraft of our regional carriers>. Any accident involving an aircraft that we operate or an aircraft that is operated under our brand by one of our regional carriers could have a material adverse effect on us if such accident created a public perception that our operations or those of our regional carriers are less safe or reliable than other airlines, resulting in passengers being reluctant to fly on us or our regional carriers. In addition, any such accident could expose us to significant tort liability. Although we currently maintain liability insurance in amounts and of the type we believe to be consistent with industry practice to cover damages arising from any such accidents, and our regional carriers carry similar insurance and generally indemnify us for their operations on our behalf, if our liability exceeds the applicable policy limits or the ability of a carrier to indemnify us, we could incur substantial losses from an accident.
A significant failure or disruption of the computer systems on which we rely could adversely affect our business>. We depend heavily on computer systems and technology to operate our business, such as flight operations systems, communications systems, airport systems and reservations systems (including continental.com and third party global distribution systems). These systems could suffer substantial or repeated disruptions due to events beyond our control, including natural disasters, power failures, terrorist attacks, equipment or software failures, computer viruses or hackers. Any such disruptions could materially impair our flight and airport operations and our ability to market our services, and could result in increased costs, lost revenue and the loss or compromise of important data. Although we have taken measures in an effort to reduce the adverse effects of certain potential failures or disruptions, if these steps are not adequate to prevent or remedy the risks, our business may be materially adversely affected.
Our net operating loss carryforwards may be limited>. At December 31, 2009, we had estimated net operating loss carryforwards ("NOLs") of $3.9 billion for federal income tax purposes that expire beginning in 2020 and continuing through 2029. Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code ("Section 382") imposes limitations on a corporation's ability to utilize NOLs if it experiences an "ownership change." In general terms, an ownership change may result from transactions increasing the ownership of certain stockholders in the stock of a corporation by more than 50 percentage points over a three-year period.
In the event of an ownership change, utilization of our NOLs would be subject to an annual limitation under Section 382 determined by multiplying the value of our stock at the time of the ownership change by the applicable long-term tax-exempt rate (which is 4.16% for December 2009). Any unused annual limitation may be carried over to later years.
For purposes of Section 382, increases in share holdings by, or that result in a person becoming, a holder of 5% or more of the outstanding shares of our common stock are aggregated for purposes of determining whether an "ownership change" has occurred. Because our common stock has been trading at low market prices, the cost of acquiring a sufficient number of shares of our common stock to become a holder of 5% or more of the outstanding shares, and the cost of acquiring additional shares by existing holders, has decreased significantly from historical levels, increasing the possibility that we could experience an "ownership change." Although we cannot currently predict whether or when such an "ownership change" may occur, an ownership change as of December 31, 2009 would have resulted in a $103 million limit to our annual NOL utilization, before consideration of any built-in gains. The imposition of this limitation on our ability to use our NOLs to offset future taxable income could cause us to pay U.S. federal income taxes earlier than if such limitation were not in effect and could cause such NOLs to expire unused, reducing or eliminating the benefit of such NOLs. In addition, depending on the market value of our common stock at the time of any such ownership change, a limitation on our ability to use our NOLs could require us to recognize a significant non-cash tax charge, the amount of which we cannot estimate at this time.
The global recession could continue to result in less demand for air travel>. The airline industry is highly cyclical, and the level of demand for air travel is correlated to the strength of the U.S. and global economies. The severe economic recession in the U.S. and global economies had a substantial negative impact on the demand for air carrier services beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008. This decline in demand has disproportionately reduced the volume of high-yield traffic in the premium cabins on domestic and international flights, as many business travelers either curtailed their travel or purchased lower yield economy tickets. The diminished volume of high-yield traffic has significantly reduced airline revenues since the fourth quarter of 2008.
We cannot predict how quickly or fully demand for air travel will recover. Stagnant or worsening global economic conditions that continue to contribute to the loss of business and leisure traffic, particularly the loss of high-yield international traffic in our first class and BusinessFirst cabins, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
The airline industry is highly competitive and susceptible to price discounting>. The U.S. airline industry is characterized by substantial price competition, especially in domestic markets. Carriers use discount fares to stimulate traffic during periods of slack demand, or when they begin service to new cities or have excess capacity, to generate cash flow and to establish, increase or preserve market share. Some of our competitors have greater financial resources (including a larger percentage or more favorable fuel hedges against price increases) and/or lower cost structures than we do, in some cases as the result of bankruptcies and/or mergers. In recent years, the domestic market share held by low-cost carriers has increased significantly and is expected to continue to increase. The increased market presence of low-cost carriers, which engage in substantial price discounting, has diminished the ability of the network carriers to maintain sufficient fare levels in domestic markets to achieve sustained profitability. We cannot predict whether or for how long these trends will continue.
In addition to price competition, airlines also compete for market share by increasing the size of their route system and the number of markets they serve. Several of our domestic competitors have increased their international capacity, including service to some destinations that we currently serve. Additionally, the "open skies" agreement between the United States and the European Union, which became effective on March 30, 2008 is resulting in increased competition from European and U.S. airlines in these international markets, and may give rise to additional consolidation or better integration opportunities among European carriers. The “open skies” agreement between the United States and Japan announced in December 2009 is also likely to increase competition in affected markets if it becomes effective. The increased competition in these international markets, particularly to the extent our competitors engage in price discounting, may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
Expanded government regulation could further increase our operating costs and restrict our ability to conduct our business>. Airlines are subject to extensive regulatory and legal compliance requirements that result in significant costs and can adversely affect us. Additional laws, regulations, airport rates and charges and growth constraints have been proposed from time to time that could significantly increase the cost of airline operations or reduce revenue. In addition, to address concerns about airport congestion, the FAA has designated certain airports, including New York Liberty, Kennedy and LaGuardia as “high density traffic airports,” and has imposed operating restrictions at these three airports, which may include capacity reductions. In addition, the FAA has designated New York Liberty and Kennedy as Level 3 Coordinated Airports under the International Air Transport Association Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines, which requires us to participate in seasonal FAA procedures for capacity allocation and schedule coordination for New York Liberty and to have slots to operate at that airport. Additional restrictions on airline routes and takeoff and landing slots may be proposed that could affect rights of ownership and transfer. Although we do not believe that these current operating restrictions will have a material adverse effect on our operations at New York Liberty, we cannot predict the impact of future capacity constraints or allocations or other restrictions on our operations that might be imposed by the FAA, Congress or other regulators, which could have a material adverse effect on us.
The FAA from time to time issues directives and other regulations relating to the maintenance and operation of aircraft that require significant expenditures or operational restrictions, and which could include the temporary grounding of an entire aircraft type if the FAA identifies design, manufacturing, maintenance or other issues requiring immediate corrective action. FAA requirements cover, among other things, retirement of older aircraft, security measures, collision avoidance systems, airborne windshear avoidance systems, noise abatement and other environmental concerns, aircraft operation and safety and increased inspections and maintenance procedures to be conducted on older aircraft. These FAA directives or requirements could have a material adverse effect on us.
Many aspects of airlines' operations also are subject to increasingly stringent federal, state, local and foreign laws protecting the environment, including the imposition of additional taxes on airlines or their passengers. Future regulatory developments in the United States and abroad could adversely affect operations and increase operating costs in the airline industry. The European Union has issued a directive to member states to include aviation in its Greenhouse Gas ETS, which requires us to begin monitoring our emissions of carbon dioxide effective January 1, 2010 and have emissions allowances equal to the amount of our carbon dioxide emissions to operate flights to and from member states of the European Union in January 2012 and thereafter, including flights between the United States and the European Union. On December 16, 2009, we joined a lawsuit in the United Kingdom with the Air Transport Association of America, American and United to challenge the extension of the European Union’s ETS to include aviation and the imposition of its requirements on us. In addition, non-EU governments are expected to challenge the application of the EU ETS to their airlines; however, we may be forced to comply with the EU ETS requirements during the pendency of a legal challenge. We may have to purchase emissions allowances through the EU ETS to cover EU flights that exceed our free allowances, which could result in substantial costs for us.
Other regulatory actions that may be taken in the future by the U.S. government, other foreign governments or the International Civil Aviation Organization to address concerns about climate change and air emissions from the aviation sector are unknown at this time. Climate change legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress, including a proposal to require transportation fuel producers and importers to acquire allowances sufficient to offset the emissions resulting from combustion of their fuels. We cannot predict, however, if any such legislation will pass the Congress or, if passed and enacted into law, how it would specifically apply to the aviation industry. In addition, effective January 14, 2010, the Administrator of EPA found that current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare. Although legal challenges and legislative proposals are expected that may invalidate this endangerment finding and the EPA’s assertion of authority under the Clean Air Act, the finding could result in EPA regulation of commercial aircraft emissions if EPA finds, as expected, that such emissions contribute to greenhouse gas pollution.
The impact to us and our industry from any additional legislation or regulations addressing climate change is likely to be adverse and could be significant, particularly if regulators were to conclude that emissions from commercial aircraft cause significant harm to the upper atmosphere or have a greater impact on climate change than other industries. Potential actions may include the imposition of requirements on airlines or transportation fuel producers and importers to purchase emission offsets or credits, which could require participation in emissions allowance trading (such as required in the European Union) and increase the cost of carbon-based fuels (such as jet fuel), substantial taxes on emissions and growth restrictions on airline operations, among other potential regulatory actions.
Further, the ability of U.S. carriers to operate international routes is subject to change because the applicable arrangements between the United States and foreign governments may be amended from time to time, or because appropriate slots or facilities are not made available. We cannot provide assurance that laws or regulations enacted in the future will not have a significant adverse effect on us.
Additional terrorist attacks or international hostilities may further adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity>. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 involving commercial aircraft severely and adversely affected our financial condition, results of operations and liquidity and the airline industry generally. Airlines continue to be a target of terrorist attacks. Additional terrorist attacks, even if not made directly on the airline industry, or the fear of such attacks (including elevated national threat warnings or selective cancellation or redirection of flights due to terror threats such as the August 2006 terrorist plot targeting multiple airlines, including us), could negatively affect us and the airline industry. The potential negative effects include increased security, insurance and other costs for us and lost revenue from increased ticket refunds and decreased ticket sales. Our financial resources might not be sufficient to absorb the adverse effects of any further terrorist attacks or other international hostilities involving the United States.
Additional security requirements may increase our costs and decrease our traffic>. Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") and TSA have implemented numerous security measures that affect airline operations and costs, and they are likely to implement additional measures in the future. Most recently, DHS has begun to implement the US-VISIT program (a program of fingerprinting and photographing foreign visa holders), announced that it will implement greater use of passenger data for evaluating security measures to be taken with respect to individual passengers, expanded the use of federal air marshals on our flights (who do not pay for their seats and thus displace revenue passengers and cause increased customer complaints from displaced passengers), begun investigating a requirement to install aircraft security systems (such as devices on commercial aircraft as countermeasures against portable surface to air missiles) and expanded cargo and baggage screening. DHS also has required certain flights to be cancelled on short notice for security reasons, and has required certain airports to remain at higher security levels than other locations. In addition, foreign governments also have begun to institute additional security measures at foreign airports we serve, out of their own security concerns or in response to security measures imposed by the United States.
Moreover, the TSA has imposed measures affecting the contents of baggage that may be carried on an aircraft. The TSA and other security regulators could impose other measures as necessary to respond to security threats that may arise in the future.
A large portion of the costs of these security measures is borne by the airlines and their passengers, and we believe that these and other security measures have the effect of decreasing the demand for air travel and the overall attractiveness of air transportation as compared to other modes of transportation. Additional security measures required by the U.S. and foreign governments in the future, such as further expanded cargo screening, might increase our costs or decrease the demand for air travel, adversely affecting our financial results.
The airline industry is heavily taxed>. The airline industry is subject to extensive government fees and taxation that negatively impact our revenue. The U.S. airline industry is one of the most heavily taxed of all industries. These fees and taxes have grown significantly in the past decade for domestic flights, and various U.S. fees and taxes also are assessed on international flights. In addition, the governments of foreign countries in which we operate impose on U.S. airlines, including us, various fees and taxes, and these assessments have been increasing in number and amount in recent years. Certain of these fees and taxes must be included in the fares we advertise or quote to our customers. Due to the competitive revenue environment, many increases in these fees and taxes have been absorbed by the airline industry rather than being passed on to the passenger. Further increases in fees and taxes may reduce demand for air travel and thus our revenues.
Airlines may continue to participate in industry consolidation or alliances, which could have a material adverse effect on us>. We are facing stronger competition from carriers that have participated in industry consolidation and from expanded airline alliances and joint ventures.
Since its deregulation in 1978, the U.S. airline industry has undergone substantial consolidation and additional consolidation may occur in light of the recently completed merger of Delta and Northwest, which changed the competitive environment for us and the entire airline industry. As a result of the announcement of the Delta/Northwest merger agreement, we conducted a comprehensive review of our strategic alternatives and announced in April 2008 that we had determined that the best course for us was not to merge with another airline at such time. Through consolidation, carriers have the opportunity to significantly expand the reach of their networks, which is of primary importance to business travelers, and to achieve cost reductions by eliminating redundancy in their networks and their management structures.
Through participation in airline alliances and/or joint ventures, carriers granted anti-trust immunity by the appropriate regulatory authorities are able to coordinate their routes, pool their revenues and costs and enjoy other mutual benefits, such as frequent flier program reciprocity, achieving many of the benefits of consolidation. For example, in 2009, Air France-KLM, Delta and Northwest launched a new trans-Atlantic joint venture among those airlines that involves coordination of routes, fares, schedules and other matters among those airlines, Alitalia and CSA Czech Airlines. American, British Airways and Iberia have received tentative DOT approval of their application for anti-trust immunity for a similar trans-Atlantic joint venture, which would also involve many of the same benefits. Delta recently attempted to induce Japan Airlines to leave its current alliance and join Delta’s alliance, although it was unsuccessful.
There may be additional consolidation or changes in airline alliances and/or joint ventures in the future, any of which could result in one or more airlines or alliances with more extensive route networks and/or lower costs structures than currently exist, changing the competitive landscape for the airline industry and having a material adverse effect on us.
Insurance costs could increase materially or key coverage could become unavailable>. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks led to a significant increase in insurance premiums and a decrease in the insurance coverage available to commercial airlines. Furthermore, our ability to continue to obtain certain types of insurance remains uncertain. Since the terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has provided war risk (terrorism) insurance to U.S. commercial airlines to cover losses. War risk insurance in amounts necessary for our operations, and at premiums that are not excessive, is not currently available in the commercial insurance market. If the government discontinues this coverage in whole or in part, we may be able to obtain comparable coverage in the commercial insurance market only, if it is available at all, for substantially higher premiums and on more restrictive terms. If we are unable to obtain adequate war risk insurance, our business could be materially and adversely affected.
Public health threats affecting travel behavior could have a material adverse effect on the industry>. Public health threats, such as the H1N1 flu virus, the bird flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARs) and other highly communicable diseases, outbreaks of which have occurred in various parts of the world in which we operate, could adversely impact our operations and the worldwide demand for air travel. Travel restrictions or operational problems, such as quarantining of personnel or inability to access our facilities or aircraft in any part of the world in which we operate, or any reduction in the demand for air travel caused by public health threats in the future, may materially adversely affect our operations and financial results.
Our results of operations fluctuate due to seasonality and other factors associated with the airline industry>. Due to greater demand for air travel during the summer months, revenue in the airline industry in the second and third quarters of the year is generally stronger than revenue in the first and fourth quarters of the year for most U.S. air carriers. Our results of operations generally reflect this seasonality, but also have been impacted by numerous other factors that are not necessarily seasonal, including excise and similar taxes, weather and air traffic control delays, as well as the other factors discussed above. As a result, our operating results for a quarterly period are not necessarily indicative of operating results for an entire year, and historical operating results are not necessarily indicative of future operating results.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments.
As of December 31, 2009, our operating fleet consisted of 337 mainline jets and 264 regional aircraft. The 337 mainline jets are operated exclusively by us, while the 264 regional aircraft are operated on our behalf by other operators under capacity purchase agreements.
We own or lease 274 regional jets. Of these, 212 are leased or subleased to ExpressJet and operated on our behalf under a capacity purchase agreement with ExpressJet, 37 are subleased to other operators but are not operated on our behalf and 25 are temporarily grounded. Additionally, our regional operating fleet includes 52 regional jet and turboprop aircraft owned or leased by third parties that are operated on our behalf by other operators under capacity purchase agreements.
The following table summarizes our operating fleet (aircraft operated by us and by others on our behalf) as of December 31, 2009:
Most of the aircraft and engines we own are subject to mortgages.
Mainline Fleet Activity. During 2009, we placed into service 13 new Boeing 737-900ER aircraft, one new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and one leased Boeing 757-300 aircraft. We removed 20 Boeing 737-300 aircraft and eight Boeing 737-500 aircraft from service during 2009. We removed three additional Boeing 737-500 aircraft and one Boeing 737-300 aircraft from service in January 2010. By March 2010, we expect to remove our two remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft from service.
At December 31, 2009, we had four owned and three leased Boeing 737-500 aircraft that were grounded. We had also grounded seven owned and three leased Boeing 737-300 aircraft. The three leased Boeing 737-300 aircraft were returned to the lessor in January 2010 and the leases on the three Boeing 737-500 aircraft will expire during the first half of 2012.
During 2009, we sold eight 737-500 aircraft to foreign buyers. We sold one grounded Boeing 737-500 aircraft to a foreign buyer in February 2010 and have agreements to sell the three remaining grounded Boeing 737-500 aircraft to foreign buyers. These sales are subject to customary closing conditions, some of which are outside of our control, and we cannot give any assurances that the buyers of these aircraft will be able to obtain financing for these transactions, that there will not be delays in deliveries or that the closing of these transactions will occur. We hold cash deposits that secure the buyers’ obligations under the aircraft sale contracts and we are entitled to damages under the aircraft sale contract if the buyers do not take delivery of the aircraft when required.
We have also agreed to lease four Boeing 757-300 aircraft from Boeing Capital Corporation. As of December 31, 2009, three of these aircraft had been delivered, one of which had been placed into service. We expect all of these aircraft to be placed into service during 2010.
Regional Fleet Activity. In January 2009, we amended our capacity purchase agreement with Colgan to increase by 15 the number of Q400 aircraft to be operated by Colgan on our behalf. We expect that Colgan will begin operating these 15 additional aircraft as they are delivered to Colgan, beginning in the third quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011. Each aircraft is scheduled to be covered by the agreement for ten years following the date the aircraft is delivered into service. Colgan supplies all of the aircraft that it operates under the agreement.
In July 2009, we entered into agreements to sublease five temporarily grounded ERJ-135 aircraft to Chautauqua. These aircraft will not be operated for us. The subleases have terms of five years, but may be cancelled by the lessee under certain conditions after an initial term of two years. The remaining 25 ERJ-135 aircraft continue to be temporarily grounded. The leases on the 30 ERJ-135 aircraft expire in 2016 through 2018. We are evaluating our options regarding these 25 aircraft, including permanently grounding them.
In December 2009, we agreed with ExpressJet to amend our capacity purchase agreement to permit ExpressJet to fly eight ERJ-145 aircraft for another carrier under a capacity purchase agreement. These eight aircraft are subleased from us and were previously flown for us under our capacity purchase agreement. As of December 31, 2009, two of these aircraft had been removed from service for us. The remaining six aircraft will be removed from service for us during the first half of 2010. The subleases have an average initial term of two and one-half years.
Firm Order and Option Aircraft. As of December 31, 2009 we had firm commitments to purchase 84 new aircraft (55 Boeing 737 aircraft, four Boeing 777 aircraft and 25 Boeing 787 aircraft) scheduled for delivery from 2010 through 2016, with an estimated aggregate cost of $5.1 billion including related spare engines. In addition to our firm order aircraft, we had options to purchase a total of 98 additional Boeing aircraft as of December 31, 2009.
We are currently scheduled to take delivery of two Boeing 777 aircraft and 12 Boeing 737 aircraft in 2010. Due to issues arising out of the governmental certification process used by the manufacturer of the coach seats on the Boeing 777 aircraft and the coach and first class seats on the Boeing 737 aircraft scheduled for delivery this year, we expect a delay in delivery of between one and six months for most of the aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2010. This seat manufacturer also provided the seats installed on most of the Boeing aircraft currently in our fleet. We do not believe these issues will have a material impact on our ability to continue to operate any of the aircraft in our fleet.
Our principal facilities are located at New York Liberty, Houston Bush, Cleveland Hopkins and A.B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam. Substantially all of these facilities are leased on a net-rental basis, as we are responsible for maintenance, insurance and other facility-related expenses and services. At each hub location, we generally have multiple leases covering different types of facilities, and those leases have expiration dates ranging from 2010 to 2030.
At each of our three domestic hub cities and most other locations, our passenger and baggage handling space is leased directly from the airport authority on varying terms dependent on prevailing practice at each airport. We also maintain administrative offices, terminal, catering, cargo and other airport facilities, training facilities, maintenance facilities and other facilities, in each case as necessary to support our operations in the cities we serve.
See Item 8. “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data, Note 19 – Commitments and Contingencies” for a discussion of certain of our guarantees relating to our principal facilities, as well as our contingent liability for US Airways’ obligations under a lease agreement covering the East End Terminal at LaGuardia Airport.
During the period between 1997 and 2001, we reduced or capped the base commissions that we paid to domestic travel agents, and in 2002 we eliminated those base commissions. These actions were similar to those also taken by other air carriers. We are a defendant, along with several other air carriers, in two lawsuits brought by travel agencies that purportedly opted out of a prior class action entitled Sarah Futch Hall d/b/a/ Travel Specialists v. United Air Lines, et al. (U.S.D.C., Eastern District of North Carolina), filed on June 21, 2000, in which the defendant airlines prevailed on summary judgment that was upheld on appeal. These similar suits against Continental and other major carriers allege violations of antitrust laws in reducing and ultimately eliminating the base commissions formerly paid to travel agents and seek unspecified money damages and certain injunctive relief under the Clayton Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The pending cases, which currently involve a total of 90 travel agency plaintiffs, are Tam Travel, Inc. v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., et al. (U.S.D.C., Northern District of California), filed on April 9, 2003 and Swope Travel Agency, et al. v. Orbitz LLC et al. (U.S.D.C., Eastern District
of Texas), filed on June 5, 2003. By order dated November 10, 2003, these actions were transferred and consolidated for pretrial purposes by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the Northern District of Ohio. On October 29, 2007, the judge for the consolidated lawsuit dismissed the case for failure to meet the heightened pleading standards established earlier in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. On October 2, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case, and on December 18, 2009, the plaintiffs’ request for rehearing by the Sixth Circuit en banc was denied. The plaintiffs now have the opportunity to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in the Swope lawsuit, encompassing 43 travel agencies, have also alleged that certain claims raised in their lawsuit were not, in fact, dismissed. The trial court has not yet ruled on that issue. In the consolidated lawsuit, we believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit, and we intend to defend vigorously any appeal. Nevertheless, a final adverse court decision awarding substantial money damages could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (commonly known as “Superfund”) and similar state environment cleanup laws, generators of waste disposed of at designated sites may, under certain circumstances, be subject to joint and several liability for investigation and remediation costs. We (including our predecessors) have been identified as a potentially responsible party at one federal site and one state site that are undergoing or have undergone investigation or remediation. Although applicable case law is evolving and some cases may be interpreted to the contrary, we believe that some or all of any liability claims associated with these sites were discharged by confirmation of our 1993 Plan of Reorganization, principally because our exposure is based on alleged offsite disposal known as of the date of confirmation. Even if any such claims were not discharged, on the basis of currently available information, we believe that our potential liability for our allocable share of the cost to remedy each site (if and to the extent we are found to be liable) is not, in the aggregate, material; however, we have not been designated a “de minimis” contributor at either site.
In 2001, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (“CRWQCB”) mandated a field study of the area surrounding our aircraft maintenance hangar in Los Angeles. The study was completed in September 2001 and identified jet fuel and solvent contamination on and adjacent to this site. In April 2005, we began environmental remediation of jet fuel contamination surrounding our aircraft maintenance hangar pursuant to a workplan submitted to (and approved by) the CRWQCB and our landlord, the Los Angeles World Airports. Additionally, we could be responsible for environmental remediation costs primarily related to solvent contamination on and near this site.
Although we are not currently subject to any environmental cleanup orders imposed by regulatory authorities, we are undertaking voluntary investigation or remediation at certain properties in consultation with such authorities. The full nature and extent of any contamination at these properties and the parties responsible for such contamination have not been determined, but based on currently available information and our current reserves, we do not believe that any environmental liability associated with such properties will have a material adverse effect on us.
At December 31, 2009, we had an accrual for estimated costs of environmental remediation throughout our system of $30 million, based primarily on third-party environmental studies and estimates as to the extent of the contamination and nature of the required remedial actions. We have evaluated and recorded this accrual for environmental remediation costs separately from any related insurance recovery. We did not have any receivables related to environmental insurance recoveries at December 31, 2009. Based on currently available information, we believe that our accrual for potential environmental remediation costs is adequate, although our accrual could be adjusted in the future due to new information or changed circumstances. However, we do not expect these items to materially affect our results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
We and/or certain of our subsidiaries are defendants in various other pending lawsuits and proceedings and are subject to various other claims arising in the normal course of our business, many of which are covered in whole or in part by insurance. Although the outcome of these lawsuits and proceedings (including the probable loss we might experience as a result of an adverse outcome) cannot be predicted with certainty at this time, we believe, after consulting with outside counsel, that the ultimate disposition of such suits will not have a material adverse effect on us.
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities.
Our Class B common stock, which we refer to as our common stock, trades on the NYSE under the symbol “CAL.” The table below shows the high and low sales prices for our common stock as reported in the consolidated transaction reporting system during 2009 and 2008.
As of February 16, 2010, there were approximately 18,890 holders of record of our common stock. We paid no cash dividends on our common stock during 2009 or 2008 and have no current intention of doing so.
Our certificate of incorporation provides that no shares of capital stock may be voted by or at the direction of persons who are not U.S. citizens unless the shares are registered on a separate stock record. Our bylaws further provide that no shares will be registered on the separate stock record if the amount so registered would exceed U.S. foreign ownership restrictions. United States law currently limits the voting power in us (and other U.S. airlines) of persons who are not citizens of the United States to 25%.
See Item 12. “Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters” for information regarding our equity compensation plans as of December 31, 2009.
The following financial information for the five years ended December 31, 2009 has been derived from our consolidated financial statements. This information should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and note thereto included in Item 8. “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data” of this report.
Selected Operating Data
We have two reportable segments: mainline and regional. The mainline segment consists of flights to cities using larger jets while the regional segment currently consists of flights with a capacity of 79 or fewer seats. As of December 31, 2009, the regional segment was operated by ExpressJet, Chautauqua, CommutAir and Colgan under capacity purchase agreements.
Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures
Non-GAAP financial measures are presented because they provide management and investors the ability to measure and monitor our performance on a consistent basis. Special items relate to activities that are not central to our ongoing operations or are unusual in nature. A reconciliation of net income (loss) to the non-GAAP financial measure of net income (loss) excluding special items for the year ended December 31 is as follows (in millions):
Cost per available seat mile (CASM) is a common metric used in the airline industry to measure an airline’s cost structure and efficiency. CASM trends can be distorted by items that are not central to our ongoing operations or are unusual in nature. Additionally, both the cost and availability of fuel are subject to many economic and political factors beyond our control. CASM excluding special charges and aircraft fuel and related taxes provides management and investors the ability to measure our cost performance absent special items and fuel price volatility. A reconciliation
of GAAP operating expenses used to determine CASM to the non-GAAP operating expenses used to determine CASM excluding special charges and aircraft fuel and related taxes for the year ended December 31 is as follows (in millions, except CASM amounts):
The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that are not limited to historical facts, but reflect our current beliefs, expectations or intentions regarding future events. All forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. For examples of those risks and uncertainties, see the cautionary statements contained in Item 1A. “ Risk Factors – Risk Factors Relating to the Company” and “Risk Factors – Risk Factors Relating to the Airline Industry.” We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances that may arise after the date of this report, except as required by applicable law.
We recorded a net loss of $282 million for the year ended December 31, 2009, as compared to a net loss of $586 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. Our net loss in 2009 was primarily the result of the global recession. Excluding special items, we recorded a net loss of $295 million for the year ended December 31, 2009, compared to a net loss of $352 million for the year ended December 31, 2008. Net loss excluding special items is significant because it provides management and investors the ability to measure and monitor our performance on a consistent basis. Special items relate to activities that are not central to our ongoing operations or are unusual in nature. A reconciliation of our net loss to the non-GAAP financial measure of net loss excluding special items is provided in Item 6. “Selected Financial Data.”
2009 Financial Highlights
2009 Operational Highlights
The severe global economic recession significantly diminished the demand for air travel beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008 and disrupted the global capital markets, resulting in a difficult financial environment for U.S. network carriers. Although we have seen some indications that the airline industry may be experiencing the early stages of a recovery, we cannot predict how quickly or fully demand for air travel will recover, and continued weakness in such demand would hinder our ability to achieve and sustain profitability. Moreover, although access to the capital markets has improved over the past several months, as evidenced by our recent financing transactions, we cannot give any assurances that we will be able to obtain additional financing or otherwise access the capital markets in the future on acceptable terms (or at all). We must achieve and sustain profitability and/or access the capital markets to meet our significant long-term debt and capital lease obligations and future commitments for capital expenditures, including the acquisition of aircraft and related spare engines.
Economic Conditions. The severe economic recession in the U.S. and global economies has had a significant negative impact on the demand for air carrier services beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008. Passenger revenue in 2009 for U.S. airlines, as reported by the Air Transport Association of America, declined 18% compared to 2008. The decline in demand for air travel in 2008 and 2009 disproportionately reduced the volume of high-yield traffic, as many business travelers either curtailed their travel or purchased lower yield economy tickets. Although recent improvements in corporate bookings and revenue trends suggest that the airline industry may be experiencing the early stages of a recovery, we cannot predict how quickly or fully demand for air travel will recover. If global economic conditions fail to improve or worsen, resulting in continuing demand weakness and reduced revenues, we may be unable to offset the reduced revenues fully through further cost and capacity reductions or other measures.
In addition to its effect on demand for our services, the global economic recession severely disrupted the global capital markets, resulting in a diminished availability of financing and higher cost for financing that was obtainable. Although access to the capital markets has improved over the past several months, as evidenced by our recent financing transactions, if economic conditions again worsen or these markets experience further disruptions, we may be unable to obtain financing on acceptable terms (or at all) to refinance certain maturing debt we would normally expect to refinance and to satisfy future capital commitments.
Fuel Costs. We benefited from significantly lower fuel costs during 2009. Our average consolidated (mainline and regional) jet fuel price per gallon including related taxes decreased to $1.97 in 2009 from $3.27 in 2008. If fuel prices rise significantly from their current levels, we may be unable to raise fares or other fees sufficiently to offset fully our increased costs.
In an effort to address the risk of rising fuel prices, we enter into fuel hedging arrangements from time to time, including collars that minimize the up-front costs. However, a precipitous decline in crude oil prices, as experienced during the second half of 2008, may result in significant costs to us in cases where our hedging arrangements obligate us to make payments to the counterparties to the extent that the price of crude falls below the applicable agreed-upon amounts. Our hedge contracts for 2009, which were largely entered into before oil prices fell, resulted in $0.23 per gallon of additional fuel expense during 2009.
Based on our expected fuel consumption in 2010, a one dollar change in the price of a barrel of crude oil would change our annual fuel expense by approximately $41 million, assuming no changes to the refining margins and our fuel hedging program. We believe that our modern, fuel-efficient fleet continues to provide us with a competitive advantage relative to our peers and a long-term hedge against rising fuel prices.
Revenue-Generating and Cost Saving Measures. In response to the significant decline in revenue, we implemented a number of measures to raise revenues and reduce costs that are designed to achieve approximately $100 million in annual benefits when fully implemented in 2010. These measures included the elimination of certain operational, management and clerical positions across the company during 2009. We also increased or implemented fees for certain services we provide, including checked baggage.
Going forward, we intend to offer additional goods and services relating to air travel that will permit customers to select product attributes that they wish to consume, and pay for, and not select other product attributes that they do not wish to consume or pay for. A portion of the goods and services will come from “unbundling” our current product, while another portion will come from goods and services that we do not currently offer. The revenue that we derive from these goods and services, which is generally referred to as ancillary revenue, typically has higher margins than that of our core product and is an important element of our strategy to return to profitability and sustain that profitability.
Additionally, we will continue to invest in technology designed to assist customers with self-service. We believe that many of our customers desire more control over their travel experience, and wish to use tools that will permit them to do so through all phases of travel, from pre-purchase to post-flight. We will also invest in technology designed to help us make better operational decisions and more efficiently assist customers at airports, while lowering our operating costs.
Capacity. Because of the adverse economic conditions in 2009, we reduced our consolidated capacity by 5.2% in 2009 and rescheduled aircraft deliveries. We do not anticipate returning to significant capacity growth unless the level of demand for air travel, economic conditions and our financial performance improve sufficiently to justify such growth. We expect only modest capacity growth for 2010, with our consolidated capacity increasing between 1.0% and 2.0%. We expect our mainline capacity to increase between 1.5% and 2.5%, with mainline domestic capacity remaining about flat and mainline international capacity increasing between 4.0% and 5.0%. The international capacity increase is primarily due to the run-rate of international routes added in 2009 and the restoration of our schedule to Mexico following our capacity reductions in 2009 related to the H1N1 flu virus.
Our future ability to grow our capacity could be adversely impacted by manufacturer delays in aircraft deliveries. We currently expect the first of our 25 Boeing 787 aircraft to be delivered in the second half of 2011, approximately two and a half years late.
Star Alliance. On October 27, 2009, we joined Star Alliance and implemented code-sharing and reciprocity of frequent flier programs, elite customer recognition and airport lounge use with United, Lufthansa, Air Canada and other Star Alliance members.
On July 10, 2009, the DOT approved our application to join United and a group of eight other carriers within Star Alliance that already hold antitrust immunity. This approval enables us, United and these other immunized Star Alliance carriers to work closely together to deliver highly competitive international flight schedules, fares and service and provides competitive balance to antitrust-immunized carriers in SkyTeam. Additionally, we, United, Lufthansa and Air Canada have received final DOT approval to establish a trans-Atlantic joint venture to create a more efficient and comprehensive trans-Atlantic network for our respective customers, offering those customers more service, scheduling and pricing options and establishing a framework for similar joint ventures in other regions of the world. The DOT’s approval of antitrust immunity is subject to certain conditions and limitations that are not expected to diminish materially the benefits of our participation in Star Alliance or the trans-Atlantic joint venture. On December 23, 2009, we, United and ANA filed an application with the DOT for antitrust immunity to enable the three carriers to establish a trans-Pacific joint venture, offering similar benefits to our trans-Pacific customers. We are seeking a modification to our pilot collective bargaining agreement to permit us to engage in revenue sharing with a domestic air carrier, which is a component of the proposed joint ventures.
The full implementation of some of the arrangements relating to Star Alliance requires the approval of domestic and foreign regulatory agencies. These agencies may deny us necessary approvals, delay certain approvals or, in connection with granting any such approvals, impose requirements, limitations or costs on us or on other Star Alliance members, or require us or them to divest slots, gates, routes or other assets. In certain cases, such actions could prevent us from consummating the transactions contemplated by our alliance agreements.
Labor Costs. Our ability to achieve and sustain profitability also depends on continuing our efforts to implement and maintain a more competitive cost structure. Approximately 97% of our full-time equivalent employees represented by unions as of December 31, 2009 are covered by collective bargaining agreements that are currently amendable or become amendable in 2010. In addition, on February 12, 2010, the National Mediation Board informed us that our fleet service employees had voted in favor of representation by the Teamsters. The election covers approximately 7,600 employees, or 6,340 full-time equivalent ramp, operations and cargo agents. The collective bargaining agreements with our pilots, mechanics and certain other work groups became amendable in December 2008 and those with our flight attendants and CMI mechanics became amendable in December 2009. On July 6, 2009, our flight simulator technicians ratified a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with us. With respect to our workgroups with amendable contracts, we have been meeting with representatives of the applicable unions to negotiate amended collective bargaining agreements with a goal of reaching agreements that are fair to us and to our employees, but to date the parties have not reached new agreements. Negotiations often take considerable time. For example, we began negotiating with our pilots’ union in February 2007, and we only received their first economic proposal in December 2009. We cannot predict the outcome of our ongoing negotiations with our unionized workgroups, although significant increases in the pay and benefits resulting from new collective bargaining agreements could have a material adverse effect on us. Furthermore, there can be no assurance that our generally good labor relations and high labor productivity can continue.
Results of Operations
Special Items. The comparability of our financial results between years is affected by a number of special items. Our results for each of the last three years include the following special items (in millions):
Comparison of Year Ended December 31, 2009 to December 31, 2008
Consolidated Results of Operations
Significant components of our consolidated operating results for the year ended December 31 were as follows (in millions, except percentage changes):
Each of these items is discussed in the following sections.
Operating Revenue. The table below shows components of operating revenue for the year ended December 31, 2009 and period to period comparisons for operating revenue, passenger revenue per available seat mile (“RASM”) and available seat miles (“ASMs”) by geographic region for our mainline and regional operations:
Passenger revenue decreased significantly in 2009 as compared to 2008 due to reduced traffic, less capacity and lower RASM. The reduced traffic and lower RASM reflects lower fares and less high-yield business traffic attributable to the global recession. The decline in demand has disproportionately reduced the volume of high-yield traffic, as many business travelers are either curtailing their travel or purchasing lower yield economy tickets.
Cargo revenue decreased due to lower fuel surcharge rates and decreased freight volume. Other revenue increased due to the implementation of new fees for checking bags in 2008 and a change in how certain costs are handled under our capacity purchase agreement with ExpressJet, offset in part by a reduction in sublease income received from ExpressJet and decreased revenue associated with sales of mileage credits in our OnePass frequent flyer program and ticket change fees.
Operating Expenses. The table below shows period-to-period comparisons by type of operating expense for our consolidated operations for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):
Operating expenses decreased 18.1% primarily due to the following: