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Airlines, even Southwest, lose money

WASHINGTON — The seven network airlines, as a group, reported an operating loss margin of 4 percent in the first quarter of 2009, the sixth consecutive quarterly loss margin since the group reported a profit margin in the third quarter of 2007, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

BTS reports that five of the seven reporting network airlines, most of the industry’s largest carriers, saw an operating loss margin in the January-to-March period. Only Alaska Airlines and Northwest Airlines reported an operating profit.

The low-cost and regional airlines groups both reported operating profit margins for the first quarter. Only low-cost carriers Virgin America and Southwest Airlines and regional carrier ExpressJet Airlines reported loss margins. The loss for Southwest was the first after 71 consecutive quarters with an operating profit.

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