American Airlines said Thursday that the latest surge in Covid-19 hit profitability in the latest quarter, but that it was bullish on the upcoming holiday season.

The big US carrier enjoyed a profitable July before the spread of the Delta variant pushed the company into the red in both August and September, American executives said in a letter to employees.

The company reported $169 million in profits in the third quarter, but the bottom line would have been a loss without an infusion of US funds authorized by Congress for carriers to preserve airline jobs.

Revenues were $9 billion, more than double the year ago-levels, but about 25 percent below those in the equivalent period of 2019.

"The American Airlines team continues to demonstrate its resilience and ability to execute, enabling us to deliver our best quarter since the pandemic began as measured by pre-tax financial results," said Chief Executive Doug Parker.

"While the rise of the Covid-19 Delta variant delayed some of our revenue recovery, it has not stopped our progress."

American Airlines was profitable in July, but said it suffered losses in August and September due to the Delta variant of Covid-19 American Airlines plane Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

American said it is gearing up for "robust" demand during the holiday season, planning for fourth-quarter capacity to be down between 11 to 13 percent compared with the 2019 quarter.

That is a higher level of utilization than at rivals United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which said they expected capacity down 23 percent and 20 percent compared with the 2019 period.

American Airlines shares rose 1.0 percent to $19.72 in pre-market trading.

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