* Airlines see improvement in 2010 outlooks
* Delta expects return to growth in 2010
* Arca airline index down 1 percent
(Adds US Airways quote, airline index)
By Kyle Peterson
CHICAGO, Dec 9 The U.S. airline industry is
seeing consistent signs of recovery that point to improved
outlooks in 2010, executives at several top carriers said on
Speaking on webcasts of an analyst conference, industry
leaders said business travel demand, which sagged earlier this
year amid economic recession, was improving.
"I think we are seeing improvement in both leisure and
premium traffic at this point," said Beverly Goulet, treasurer
at AMR Corp AMR.N, parent of American Airlines, at the Next
Generation Equity Research Conference.
"We continue to see strength in close-in bookings," she
The U.S. airline industry has grappled in the last year
with falling demand -- especially for high-end business travel
-- as the recession eroded travel budgets.
Several airlines executives have noted improved demand in
recent months and said on Wednesday the outlook continues to
Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), the world's largest carrier, said
demand would remain strong and that it expects to see
improvements in unit revenue in 2010.
"When is unit revenue going to go positive? I think we've
seen a steady step progression," Delta Chief Financial Officer
Hank Halter said. "I don't want to give a specific date or
guidance, but clearly it's going to be in 2010 and likely it's
going to be in the front half of 2010."
Kathryn Mikells, chief financial officer at United Airlines
parent UAL Corp UAUA.O, also noted "signs of recovery on the
"We did begin to see corporate and premium traffic
improving (in the third quarter)," Mikells said.
US Airways Group LCC.N President Scott Kirby said the
airline also is seeing evidence of recovering business travel
Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest Airlines (LUV.N),
said, however, that business travel still lagged leisure and
that he did not expect a rebound in business demand in 2010.
Low-cost carrier Southwest caters less to business travels than
its major rivals.
The Arca airline index .XAL was down 1 percent at
(Additional reporting by Karen Jacobs and Deepa
Seetharaman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Richard Chang)