Nation’s top 10 airlines earned $1.6 billion in profit (combined) in the first half of 2012

The nation’s 10-largest airlines reported profit margins of a combined 2.1 percent in the first six months of 2012, according to data released Thursday by Airlines 4 America, an industry group.

Combined, the carriers earned $1.6 billion in profit, an increase of $400 million from the same period in 2012, the groups’ records show. The industry profit margin in the first half of 2012 was 1.6 percent, according to industry statistics.

Making money is better than losing it, of course. But the data just shows exactly how thin profits are in this industry — in which fixed costs, like airplanes, fuel and labor — are enormously high. We’re talking 2 cents on the dollar here.

In a release, Airlines 4 America economist John Heimlich tried to put the profit margin in context. He said that if jet fuel had risen by 20 cents per gallon during the first six months of the year, all airline profits would have been completely wiped out.

The nation’s top 10 airlines (not in order) are:  Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United and US Airways.

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