Watch Now

Atlas Air gives pilots pay increase on heels of Q1 growth

Net income went up 9.5% and the company expects even better full-year results

Atlas Air is reactivating some 747-400 freighters as orders pour in from shippers with goods to move. (Photo: Atlas Air)

Contract cargo airline and aircraft lessor Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings beat analyst expectations with adjusted net income of $29.9 million, or $1.15 per diluted share, and total revenue of $644 million in the first quarter due to strong demand for its charter service and higher airfreight rates due to transport scarcity caused by the coronavirus. 

Atlas’ stock (NASDAQ: AAWW) was up 5.37% to $37.42 prior to noon Thursday and is up more than a third since the start of the year.

The parent company also announced a 10% interim pay increase for 2,200 pilots at two of its operating companies, Atlas Air and Southern Air, effective May 1. Atlas is still in the midst of contentious negotiations with the pilots’ union for a new master contract, but said it wanted to reward the pilots for their hard work during the pressure of the pandemic. Atlas wants to merge the Southern Air pilots into a single labor agreement after acquiring the company in 2016.

The company said it expects strong results for the remainder of the year because its freighters are in extremely high demand due to the shutdown of most passenger airline activity, which wiped out nearly half of total cargo capacity in the market. Governments and businesses are scrambling to find airlift to move medical supplies, but also other goods that are starting to be shipped in greater quantities as manufacturing returns to areas previously under quarantine.

Atlas, however, only provided a specific outlook for the second quarter, saying it expects $770 million in revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of about $165 million, with adjusted net income growing 40% to 50% above the first quarter level. Net income will double if a refund of excess aircraft rent paid in previous years is included.

Business is so strong going forward that the carrier has reactivated three Boeing 747-400 freighters that were in storage and began operating a Boeing 777 that was previously leased out to airlines to fly by its Titan Aviation subsidiary.

But the first quarter was a mixed bag at times. Revenue for dedicated contract carriage declined about $27.5 million to $278.7 million because some customers cancelled flights, but was partially offset by a revenue increase for providing crew and maintenance to airlines with aircraft of their own. At the same time, Atlas experienced a $22.5 million increase in charter revenue, primarily from the extra use of the 747s.

The carrier is also experiencing higher costs associated with premium pay for pilots operating in areas significantly impacted by the virus.

However, executives remain wary of the uncertain economic environment and are significantly reducing discretionary spending, selling non-essential assets, limiting hiring and shoring up reserves.

“With an exceptionally talented team of employees, a strong balance sheet, and a diversified portfolio of assets and services, Atlas continues to be well-positioned to adjust to market conditions, navigate through the current pandemic, and leverage the scale of our operations to further capitalize on business opportunities,” CEO John Dietrich said in the earnings report.

Second quarter revenue growth will be partially offset by higher heavy maintenance expense, lower contract passenger flying for the U.S. military after it stopped troop movements to limit potential infections, higher pay for pilots and expenses to sterilize planes and other work areas.

In addition, Atlas said, the availability of hotels and restaurants, evolving COVID-19-related travel restrictions and health screenings, and cancellations of passenger flights by other airlines, or airport closures, could further impact its ability to position pilots to operate aircraft.

F3: Future of Freight Festival


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

One Comment

  1. Snapseed for PC

    I love your article and as you said about the pay increment of air pilots, it is a nice decision and I appreciate this decision.

Comments are closed.

Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals and a Silver Medal from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government and trade coverage, and news analysis. He was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In December 2022, he was voted runner up for Air Cargo Journalist by the Seahorse Freight Association. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]