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Airline Year Over Year Unit Revenue Changes Aren't As Good as They Seem

For the first time in a long time, airlines are reporting merely single digit unit revenue decreases year-over-year for November flying. It's not an increase, but it's a big improvement from the double digits of months past . . . or is it? The numbers are lying in this case, or rather hiding the truth.

Continental (CAL) says its November unit revenue decreased between 7 and 9 percent. US Airways (LCC) was much better, reporting its passenger unit revenue was down 2 percent year-over-year. That's great, but we need to consider what was happening the year before as well.

Last November, US Airways reported a decrease of 3 to 5 percent. In October, passenger unit revenue increased 4 to 6 percent.

For Continental, the spread was similar. November's unit revenue increased 1.2 percent. Meanwhile, the month before, October unit revenue was up 9.5 percent.

As you can see, we're looking at much more favorable comparisons in November since unit revenues had fallen off a cliff, so this lower decrease shouldn't be much of a surprise. There's still a lot of progress yet to be made before we see real recovery.

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