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UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
FORM10-K
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2023
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Transition Period From                          to                         
Commission file number 1-8400
American Airlines Group Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware75-1825172
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
1 Skyview Drive,Fort Worth,Texas76155(682)278-9000
(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)Registrant’s telephone number, including area code

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class Trading Symbol(s) Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, $0.01 par value per share AAL The Nasdaq Global Select Market
Preferred Stock Purchase Rights
(1)
(1) Attached to the Common Stock
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Commission file number 1-2691
American Airlines, Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Delaware13-1502798
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
1 Skyview Drive,Fort Worth,Texas76155(682)278-9000
(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)Registrant’s telephone number, including area code
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: None
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
____________________________________________________
 




Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
American Airlines Group Inc.Large accelerated filerAccelerated filerNon-accelerated filerSmaller reporting companyEmerging growth company
American Airlines, Inc.Large accelerated filerAccelerated filerNon-accelerated filerSmaller reporting companyEmerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
American Airlines Group Inc.
American Airlines, Inc.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.
American Airlines Group Inc.
American Airlines, Inc.
Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).
American Airlines Group Inc.
American Airlines, Inc.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).
American Airlines Group Inc.Yes  No
American Airlines, Inc.Yes  No
The aggregate market value of the voting stock held by non-affiliates of American Airlines Group Inc. as of June 30, 2023, was approximately $11.7 billion. As of February 16, 2024, there were 654,756,816 shares of American Airlines Group Inc. common stock outstanding.
As of February 16, 2024, there were 1,000 shares of American Airlines, Inc. common stock outstanding, all of which were held by American Airlines Group Inc.



OMISSION OF CERTAIN INFORMATION
American Airlines, Inc. meets the conditions set forth in General Instruction I(1)(a) and (b) of Form 10-K and has therefore omitted the information otherwise called for by Items 10-13 of Form 10-K as allowed under General Instruction I(2)(c).
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the proxy statement related to American Airlines Group Inc.’s 2024 Annual Meeting of Stockholders, which proxy statement will be filed under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 within 120 days of the end of American Airlines Group Inc.’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2023, are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.



American Airlines Group Inc.
American Airlines, Inc.
Form 10-K
Year Ended December 31, 2023
Table of Contents 
  Page
Item 1.       
Item 1A.    
Item 1B.    
Item 1C.
Item 2.       
Item 3.       
Item 4.       
Item 5.       
Item 6.       
Item 7.       
Item 7A.    
Item 8A.    
Item 8B.    
Item 9.       
Item 9A.    
Item 9B.
Item 9C.
Item 10.    
Item 11.    
Item 13.    
Item 14.    
Item 15.    
Item 16.    


4


Table of Contents
General
This report is filed by American Airlines Group Inc. (AAG) and its wholly-owned subsidiary American Airlines, Inc. (American). References in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “we,” “us,” “our,” the “Company” and similar terms refer to AAG and its consolidated subsidiaries. References in this report to “mainline” refer to the operations of American only and exclude regional operations.
Note Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
Certain of the statements contained in this report should be considered forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act), the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements may be identified by words such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “intend,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “plan,” “project,” “could,” “should,” “would,” “continue,” “seek,” “target,” “guidance,” “outlook,” “if current trends continue,” “optimistic,” “forecast” and other similar words. Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements about our plans, objectives, expectations, intentions, estimates and strategies for the future, and other statements that are not historical facts. These forward-looking statements are based on our current objectives, beliefs and expectations, and they are subject to significant risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results and financial position and timing of certain events to differ materially from the information in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those described below under Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors, Part II, Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and other risks and uncertainties listed from time to time in our filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC).
All of the forward-looking statements are qualified in their entirety by reference to the factors discussed in Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors and elsewhere in this report. There may be other factors of which we are not currently aware that may affect matters discussed in the forward-looking statements and may also cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed. We do not assume any obligation to publicly update or supplement any forward-looking statement to reflect actual results, changes in assumptions or changes in other factors affecting such statements other than as required by law. Any forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this report or as of the dates indicated in the statements.

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Summary of Risk Factors
Our business is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that may affect our business, results of operations and financial condition, or the trading price of our common stock or other securities. We caution the reader that these risk factors may not be exhaustive. We operate in a continually changing business environment, and new risks and uncertainties emerge from time to time. Management cannot predict such new risks and uncertainties, nor can it assess the extent to which any of the risk factors below or any such new risks and uncertainties, or any combination thereof, may impact our business. These risks are more fully described in Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors. These risks include, among others, the following:
Risks Related to our Business and Industry
Downturns in economic conditions could adversely affect our business.
We will need to obtain sufficient financing or other capital to operate successfully.
Our high level of debt and other obligations may limit our ability to fund general corporate requirements and obtain additional financing, may limit our flexibility in responding to competitive developments and may cause our business to be vulnerable to adverse economic and industry conditions.
We have significant pension and other postretirement benefit funding obligations, which may adversely affect our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition.
If our financial condition worsens, provisions in our credit card processing and other commercial agreements may adversely affect our liquidity.
The loss of key personnel upon whom we depend to operate our business or the inability to attract, develop and retain additional qualified personnel could adversely affect our business.
Our business has been and will continue to be materially affected by many changing economic, geopolitical, commercial, regulatory and other conditions beyond our control, including global events that affect travel behavior, and our results of operations could be volatile and fluctuate materially due to changes in such conditions.
The airline industry is intensely competitive and dynamic.
Union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruptions may adversely affect our operations and financial performance.
If we encounter problems with any of our third-party regional operators or third-party service providers, our operations could be adversely affected by a resulting decline in revenue or negative public perception about our services.
Any damage to our reputation or brand image could adversely affect our business or financial results.
Changes to our business model that are designed to increase revenues may not be successful and may cause operational difficulties or decreased demand.
Our intellectual property rights, particularly our branding rights, are valuable, and any inability to protect them may adversely affect our business and financial results.
We may be a party to litigation in the normal course of business or otherwise, which could affect our financial position and liquidity.
Our ability to utilize our NOLs and other carryforwards may be limited.
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We have a significant amount of goodwill, which is assessed for impairment at least annually. In addition, we may never realize the full value of our intangible assets or long-lived assets, causing us to record material impairment charges.
The commercial relationships that we have with other companies, including any related equity investments, may not produce the returns or results we expect.
Our business is very dependent on the price and availability of aircraft fuel. Continued periods of high volatility in fuel costs, increased fuel prices or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a significant negative impact on consumer demand, our operating results and liquidity.
Our business is subject to extensive government regulation, which may result in increases in our costs, disruptions to our operations, limits on our operating flexibility, reductions in the demand for air travel, and competitive disadvantages.
We operate a global business with international operations that are subject to economic and political instability and have been, and in the future may continue to be, adversely affected by numerous events, circumstances or government actions beyond our control.
We may be adversely affected by conflicts overseas, terrorist attacks or other acts of violence, domestically or abroad; the travel industry continues to face ongoing security concerns.
We are subject to risks associated with climate change, including increased regulation of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, changing consumer preferences and the potential for increased impacts of severe weather events on our operations and infrastructure.
A shortage of pilots or other personnel has in the past and could continue to materially adversely affect our business.
We depend on a limited number of suppliers for aircraft, aircraft engines and parts. Delays in scheduled aircraft deliveries, unexpected grounding of aircraft or aircraft engines whether by regulators or by us, or other loss of anticipated fleet capacity, and failure of new aircraft to receive regulatory approval, be produced or otherwise perform as and when expected, may adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We rely heavily on technology and automated systems to operate our business, and any failure of these technologies or systems could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Evolving data privacy requirements (in particular, compliance with applicable federal, state and foreign laws relating to handling of personal information about individuals) could increase our costs, and any significant data privacy incident could disrupt our operations, harm our reputation, expose us to legal risks and otherwise materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We are exposed to risks from cyberattacks, and any cybersecurity incidents involving us, our third-party service providers, or one of our AAdvantage partners or other business partners, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We rely on third-party distribution channels and must effectively manage the costs, rights and functionality of these channels.
If we are unable to obtain and maintain adequate facilities and infrastructure throughout our system and, at some airports, adequate slots, we may be unable to operate our existing flight schedule and to expand or change our route network in the future, which may have a material adverse impact on our operations.
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PART I 
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Overview
American Airlines Group Inc. (AAG), a Delaware corporation, is a holding company and its principal, wholly-owned subsidiaries are American Airlines, Inc. (American), Envoy Aviation Group Inc., PSA Airlines, Inc. (PSA) and Piedmont Airlines, Inc. (Piedmont). AAG was formed in 1982, under the name AMR Corporation (AMR), as the parent company of American, which was founded in 1934.
AAG’s and American’s principal executive offices are located at 1 Skyview Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76155 and their telephone number is 682-278-9000.
Airline Operations
Together with our wholly-owned regional airline subsidiaries and third-party regional carriers operating as American Eagle, our primary business activity is the operation of a major network air carrier, providing scheduled air transportation for passengers and cargo through our hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. and partner gateways, including in London, Doha, Madrid, Seattle/Tacoma, Sydney and Tokyo (among others). In 2023, approximately 211 million passengers boarded our flights. During 2023, we launched more than 50 new routes, providing service to close to 350 destinations around the world, and we announced several new destinations for customers to explore in 2024: Copenhagen, Denmark; Naples, Italy; Nice, France; Governor’s Harbour, Bahamas; Tijuana, Mexico; Tulum, Mexico; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Pasco, Washington and Hyannis, Massachusetts. In 2024, we announced new service to Brisbane, Australia and Veracruz, Mexico, as well as additional nonstop service between New York and Tokyo, Japan.
As of December 31, 2023, we operated 965 mainline aircraft supported by our regional airline subsidiaries and third-party regional carriers, which together operated an additional 556 regional aircraft. See Part I, Item 2. Properties for further discussion of our mainline and regional aircraft and “Regional” below for further discussion of our regional operations.
American is a founding member of the oneworld® Alliance, which brings together a global network of 13 world-class member airlines and their affiliates, working together to provide a superior and seamless travel experience. See “Distribution and Marketing Agreements” below for further discussion on the oneworld Alliance and other agreements with domestic and international airlines.
See Part II, Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – “2023 Financial Overview,” “AAG’s Results of Operations” and “American’s Results of Operations” for further discussion of AAG’s and American’s operating results and operating performance. Also, see Note 1(m) to each of AAG’s and American’s Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Items 8A and 8B, respectively, for passenger revenue by geographic region and Note 13 to AAG’s Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8A and Note 12 to American’s Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8B for information regarding operating segments.
Regional
Our regional carriers provide scheduled air transportation under the brand name “American Eagle.” The American Eagle carriers include our wholly-owned regional carriers Envoy Air Inc. (Envoy), PSA and Piedmont, as well as third-party regional carriers including Republic Airways Inc. (Republic), SkyWest Airlines, Inc. (SkyWest) and Air Wisconsin Airlines LLC (Air Wisconsin). Our regional carriers are an integral component of our operating network. We rely heavily on regional carriers to serve small markets and also to drive connecting traffic to our hubs from markets that are not economical for us to serve with larger, mainline aircraft. In addition, regional carriers offer complementary service in many of our mainline markets. All American Eagle carriers use logos, service marks, aircraft paint schemes and uniforms similar to those of our mainline operations. In 2023, 46 million passengers boarded our regional flights, approximately 45% of whom connected to or from our mainline flights.
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Our regional carrier arrangements are in the form of capacity purchase agreements with our third-party regional partners and similar arrangements with our wholly-owned affiliates which provide that all revenues, including passenger, in-flight, ancillary, mail and freight revenues, go to us. We control marketing, scheduling, ticketing, pricing and seat inventories. In return, we agree to pay predetermined fees to these airlines for operating an agreed-upon number of aircraft, without regard to the number of passengers on board. In addition, these agreements provide that we either reimburse or pay 100% of certain variable costs, such as airport landing fees, fuel and passenger liability insurance. In 2023, Air Wisconsin began operating scheduled flights under the American Eagle name.
Cargo
Our cargo division provides a wide range of freight and mail services, with facilities and interline connections available across the globe. In 2023, we served more than 21,000 unique origin and destination pairs, transporting over 900 million pounds of time-sensitive freight and mail across our network.
Distribution and Marketing Agreements
Passengers can purchase tickets for travel on American through several distribution channels, including our website (www.aa.com), our mobile app, our reservations centers and third-party distribution channels, including conventional travel agents, travel management companies and online travel agents (e.g., Expedia, including its booking sites Orbitz and Travelocity, and Booking Holdings, including its booking sites Kayak and Priceline). Over the last decade, American has been a leader in deploying new distribution technologies such as IATA New Distribution Capability (NDC) technology, which is now the primary means by which we distribute our content to third parties through aggregators (e.g., Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport and Travelfusion) or through direct connections. NDC technology provides customers access to enhanced content and functionality, providing a simplified booking experience, and enabling us to provide more relevant, tailored offers to customers.
To remain competitive, we will need to successfully manage our distribution costs and rights, increase our distribution flexibility and improve the functionality of our distribution channels, while maintaining an industry-competitive cost structure. For more discussion, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “We rely on third-party distribution channels and must effectively manage the costs, rights and functionality of these channels.”
Member of oneworld Alliance
American is a founding member of the oneworld Alliance, which currently includes Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas Airways (Qantas), Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines and SriLankan Airlines. Oman Air is expected to join the oneworld Alliance in 2024, and Fiji Airways is a oneworld connect partner offering select alliance benefits to oneworld frequent flyers. The oneworld Alliance links the networks of member carriers and their respective affiliates to enhance customer service and provide smooth connections to the destinations served by the alliance, including linking member carriers’ loyalty programs and providing reciprocal access to the carriers’ airport lounge facilities.
Joint Business Agreements and Other Cooperation Agreements
American has established a transatlantic joint business with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Finnair, a transpacific joint business with Japan Airlines and a joint business covering Australia and New Zealand with Qantas. Joint business agreements enable the carriers involved to cooperate on flights between particular destinations and allow pooling and sharing of certain revenues and costs, enhanced loyalty program reciprocity and cooperation in other areas. Joint business agreements have become a common approach among major carriers to address key regulatory restrictions typically applicable to international airline service, including limitations on the foreign ownership of airlines and national laws prohibiting foreign airlines from carrying passengers beyond specific gateway cities.
We also have established a strategic alliance with Alaska Airlines covering certain routes on the West Coast of the United States and a strategic alliance with Qatar Airways covering the Middle East in order to provide customers with improved schedules and network connection opportunities, enhanced loyalty program reciprocity and cooperation in other areas.
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In July 2010, in connection with a regulatory review related to our transatlantic joint business, we provided certain commitments to the European Commission (EC) regarding, among other things, the availability of take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW) airports. The commitments accepted by the EC were binding for 10 years. In anticipation of both the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU), commonly referred to as Brexit, and the expiry of the EC commitments in July 2020, the United Kingdom Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), in October 2018, opened an investigation into the transatlantic joint business. In September 2020 and April 2022, the CMA adopted interim measures that effectively extend the EC commitments until March 2026 in light of the uncertainty and other impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMA restarted its investigation in September 2023 after a pause related to the COVID-19 pandemic and plans to complete the investigation before the scheduled expiration of the interim measures in March 2026. We continue to cooperate fully with the CMA.
Marketing Relationships
To improve access to each other’s markets, various U.S. and foreign air carriers, including American, have established marketing agreements with other airlines. These marketing agreements vary in scope and are intended to provide enhanced customer choice by means of an expanded network with reciprocal loyalty program participation, but do not involve the same level of cooperation as our joint businesses or strategic alliances. As of December 31, 2023, in addition to the relationships described above, American had codeshare, marketing and/or loyalty program relationships with Air Tahiti Nui, Cape Air, Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines Company Limited (China Southern Airlines), EL AL Israel Airlines, Etihad Airways, Fiji Airways, GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A. (GOL), Gulf Air, Hawaiian Airlines, IndiGo, JetSMART, Jetstar, Jetstar Japan, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Silver Airways, SriLankan Airlines and Vueling Airlines.
In 2023, we completed codeshare agreements with JetSMART, enabling American’s customers to book travel on JetSMART’s network beyond Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru, and which will allow for further extension of our network to other markets in South America, such as Argentina, on JetSMART operated flights, subject to all necessary regulatory approvals.
Also in 2023, we launched a codeshare partnership with Philippine Airlines. This partnership introduced the first marketed flights by a Philippine carrier to several U.S. destinations and allows American’s customers to travel to Manila and Cebu, Philippines.
We had a marketing relationship, the Northeast Alliance arrangement (NEA), with JetBlue Airways Corporation (JetBlue) that included an alliance agreement with reciprocal codesharing on certain domestic and international routes from New York (John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and Newark Liberty International Airport) and Boston Logan International Airport. On May 19, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an order permanently enjoining American and JetBlue from continuing and further implementing the NEA. In June 2023, JetBlue delivered a notice of termination of the NEA, effective July 29, 2023, and the carriers have commenced wind-down activities to accommodate mutual customers.
AAdvantage® Program
Our AAdvantage program was established to develop passenger loyalty by offering benefits and rewards to travelers for their continued patronage with American and our partners. AAdvantage members enjoy exclusive benefits and earn mileage credits for flying on eligible tickets on American, any oneworld Alliance airline or other partner airlines. For every dollar spent by flying on an eligible American ticket, members earn mileage credits, and AAdvantage Gold®, AAdvantage Platinum®, AAdvantage Platinum Pro® and AAdvantage Executive Platinum® status holders earn additional bonus mileage credits of 40%, 60%, 80% and 120%, respectively. Members also earn mileage credits by using the services of more than 1,000 non-flight partners, such as our co-branded credit cards, certain hotel and car rental companies and shopping and dining partners. The AAdvantage program in general, and our co-branded credit card programs in particular, are material assets of our business and have become increasingly important to our company over time. During 2023 and 2022, cash payments from co-branded credit card and other partners were $5.2 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively.
Mileage credits can be redeemed for travel and upgraded experiences on American and participating airlines, membership to our Admirals Club®, or for other non-flight awards, such as car rentals and hotels, from our program partners. Travel awards are available on all flights operated by American and, subject to capacity-controlled seating, on flights operated by our partners. A member’s mileage credits generally do not expire if that member has any type of qualifying activity at least once every 24 months or if the AAdvantage member is the primary holder of a co-branded credit card. AAdvantage members qualify for status over a 12-month period beginning on March 1 of each year by earning
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Loyalty Points, which can be earned through a variety of qualifying travel and non-travel activities, including use of our co-branded credit cards. Status members can enjoy additional travel benefits of the AAdvantage program, including complimentary upgrades, checked bags, and Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats, as well as priority check-in, security, boarding and baggage delivery when traveling on American, any oneworld Alliance airline or select partner airlines. In addition, AAdvantage members can unlock benefits, rewards and choices before, between and beyond the traditional status tiers with Loyalty Point Rewards. In 2023, we introduced a new business loyalty program, AAdvantage Business, which rewards both eligible companies with AAdvantage miles and their travelers with additional Loyalty Points for booking business travel through our website or mobile app.
In 2023, the editorial staff of the digital news outlet, The Points Guy, selected AAdvantage as the Best U.S. Airline Loyalty Program. In addition, AAdvantage was recognized for the Best Elite Program in the Americas at the 2023 Freddie Awards, which is based entirely on votes from travelers around the world.
Under our agreements with AAdvantage members and program partners, we reserve the right to change the terms of the AAdvantage program at any time and without notice. Program rules, partners, special offers, awards and requisite mileage levels for awards are subject to change.
During 2023, our members redeemed approximately 13 million awards, including travel redemptions for flights and upgrades on American and other air carriers, as well as redemption of car and hotel awards, club memberships and merchandise. Approximately 8% of our 2023 total revenue passenger miles flown were from award travel.
See Part II, Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – “Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates” for more information on our loyalty program.
Industry Competition
Domestic
The markets in which we operate are highly competitive. On most of our domestic nonstop routes, we face competing service from other domestic airlines, including major network airlines, low-cost carriers and ultra-low-cost carriers such as Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines. Between cities that require a connection, where the major airlines compete via their respective hubs, competition is significant. In addition, we face competition on some of our connecting routes from airlines operating point-to-point service on such routes. We also compete with all-cargo and charter airlines and, particularly on shorter segments, ground and rail transportation.
In general, beyond nonstop city pairs, carriers that have the greatest ability to seamlessly connect passengers to and from markets have a competitive advantage. In some cases, however, foreign governments limit U.S. air carriers’ rights to transport passengers beyond designated gateway cities in foreign countries. In order to improve access to domestic and foreign markets, we have arrangements with other airlines including through the oneworld Alliance, other cooperation agreements, joint business agreements and marketing relationships, as further discussed herein.
On all of our routes, pricing decisions are affected, in large part, by the need to meet competition from other airlines. Price competition occurs on a market-by-market basis through price discounts, changes in pricing structures, fare matching, targeted promotions and loyalty program initiatives. Airlines typically use discounted fares and other promotions to stimulate traffic during normally weak travel periods, when they begin service to new cities, when they have excess capacity, to generate cash flow, to maximize revenue per available seat mile or to establish, increase or preserve market share. Most airlines will quickly match price reductions in a particular market, and we have often elected to match discounted or promotional fares initiated by other air carriers in certain markets in order to compete in those markets. In addition, we face pricing pressures from so-called ultra-low-cost carriers, such as Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines, which compete in many of the markets in which we operate, with competition from these carriers increasing and new entrants regularly announcing their intention to start up new ultra-low-cost carriers.
In addition to price competition, airlines compete for market share by increasing the size of their route system and the number of markets they serve. The American Eagle regional carriers increase the number of markets we serve by flying to smaller markets and providing connections at our hubs. Many of our competitors also own or have agreements with regional airlines that provide similar services at their hubs and other locations. We also compete on the basis of scheduling (frequency and flight times), availability of nonstop flights, on-time performance, type of equipment, cabin configuration, amenities provided to passengers, loyalty programs, the automation of travel agent reservation systems, onboard products, health and safety, sustainability initiatives and other services.
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International
In addition to our extensive domestic service, we provide international service to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe, Qatar, China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand. In providing international air transportation, we compete with other U.S. airlines, foreign investor-owned airlines and foreign state-owned or state-affiliated airlines. Competition has also been increasing from low-cost airlines executing international long-haul expansion strategies, a trend we expect to continue, in particular with the planned introduction of long-range narrowbody aircraft in the coming years.
In order to increase our ability to compete in the market for international air transportation service, which is subject to extensive government regulation, U.S. and foreign carriers have entered into bilateral and multilateral marketing relationships, alliances, cooperation agreements and joint business agreements to exchange traffic among each other’s flights and route networks. See “Distribution and Marketing Agreements” above for further discussion.
Sustainability
Operating a sustainable business that has the ability to serve our stakeholders over the long-term is an important part of our strategy. We have increased our focus over time on a number of elements that we view as important to build a more sustainable company, including those described below.
We have received recognition for our progress toward our sustainability goals. American was named the 2023 Air Transport World Eco-Airline of the Year, and in 2023 we were named to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the first time, one of only two passenger airlines included in the index. We also returned to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index in 2023 for the third year in a row.
Climate
We recognize the challenge of climate change and have set ambitious goals to transition to operating a low-carbon airline over time. Our aim is to achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2050, and we have set an intermediate target to drive progress toward that goal. We have received validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) that our 2035 GHG reduction target complies with the criteria in the SBTi’s first aviation pathway.
The vast majority of our direct GHG emissions comes from the use of jet fuel in our operations. Our current strategy for reaching net zero GHG emissions by 2050 is focused on running a more fuel-efficient operation, with more fuel-efficient aircraft, powered by low-carbon fuel. To do so, we are working to drive progress across several key levers, including:
Continuing to replace older, less fuel-efficient aircraft with new, more efficient aircraft over time;
Helping scale the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) with the aim of transitioning to lower-carbon fuels. Currently, SAF is not available at the cost or scale necessary to meet our industry’s needs. We continue to enter into agreements to purchase SAF as part of our goal to replace 10% of our conventional jet fuel with SAF in 2030 and to encourage investment in SAF; and
Evaluating and investing in innovations that may enable commercial aircraft to be powered by low- and no-carbon fuel sources over the long term. For example, we have made direct investments in companies working to develop hydrogen-electric propulsion technology and green hydrogen distribution. We are also an anchor partner of Breakthrough Energy Catalyst, which aims to make investments to accelerate the development of new clean energy technologies, including SAF.
Achieving our ambitious goals will require significant action and investments by governments, manufacturers and other stakeholders. We are committed to engaging with our stakeholders to seek to advance these initiatives, and we have dedicated resources to advance our own progress. Our Board and Corporate Governance and Public Responsibility Committee receive updates on our climate strategy, progress and key risks regularly. Our Chief Executive Officer is responsible for oversight of our climate change strategy.
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Safety
The safety of our customers and team members is a top priority. Our approach to safety is guided by our FAA-approved safety management systems (SMS), an organization-wide approach to identifying and managing risk. Each SMS is comprised of four components: Safety Policy, Safety Assurance, Safety Risk Management and Safety Promotion. Our Safety Policy sets safety objectives while striving to comply with applicable regulatory requirements and laws in the countries where we operate and establishing standards for acceptable operational behaviors.
The Safety Assurance component of our SMS specifies how we use data and conduct quality assurance and internal oversight to validate the effectiveness of risk controls and the performance of the SMS. The Safety Risk Management (SRM) element of our SMS provides a decision-making process for identifying hazards and mitigating risk based on a thorough understanding of our systems and their operating environment. We employ SRM whenever there is a significant change to our operations, such as the delivery of new aircraft. Lastly, the Safety Promotion component includes training and raising awareness among team members so that they can spot potential safety events.
Customers
We fly to close to 350 destinations in the United States and internationally, and we are committed to providing our customers with a world-class travel experience. We continued to rigorously measure and track customer satisfaction through passenger surveys in 2023, efforts that led to further improvements in our operations and the services we provide. In 2023, we achieved our best-ever full year completion factor, with the lowest number of cancellations annually since the 2013 merger with US Airways Group, Inc., which led to a record Likelihood to Recommend score for the full year. Additionally in 2023, we were recognized for the sixth consecutive year with the prestigious Five Star rating in The APEX Official Airline Ratings – Global Airline category. This rating is based on verified customer feedback on the overall travel experience.
Our People
The airline business is labor intensive, and our team members are critical to delivering for our customers. The operational complexity of our business requires a diverse team of personnel trained and experienced in a variety of technical areas such as flight operations, ground operations, safety and maintenance, customer service and airline scheduling and planning. Fostering a culture where our team members feel supported to take care of our customers is critical to our success. To do this, we must continue to build a diverse and inclusive environment, helping all team members reach their full potential and providing them with the right resources and support.
In 2023, mainline and regional salaries, wages and benefits were our largest expense and represented 34% of our total operating expenses. As of December 31, 2023, we had approximately 132,100 active full-time equivalent employees, approximately 87% of whom were represented by various labor unions responsible for negotiating the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) governing their compensation and job duties, among other things.
Talent Development
We focus on providing our team members the tools, training and resources they need to do their best work. We maintain a suite of programs aimed at helping our people develop the skills and experience they need to succeed in their roles and build rewarding, long-term careers within our company. Additionally, we have partnered with leading online learning platforms to make professional development available on-demand to all of our team members.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Cultivating an environment that celebrates diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is a priority for us, and we seek to create a workplace where diverse perspectives and experiences are welcomed and encouraged, where team members feel comfortable to be their authentic selves and where we are always learning from one another. Our goal is to make culture a competitive advantage so people will want to work with us, fly with us and invest in us. We are implementing a multiyear strategy focused on embedding DEI throughout our company by:
Hiring, engaging and retaining talent for growth;
Delivering excellence in our operations to serve and expand our global markets;
Striving to have our teams effectively serve the communities we represent; and
Driving innovation to build competitive advantages.
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In 2023, we received a perfect score on the Disability Equality Index for the eighth consecutive year and were named one of the best places to work for disability inclusion. We also received a top score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2023-2024 Corporate Equality Index, an assessment of LGBTQ+ workplace equality.
Competitive Pay and Comprehensive Benefits
We seek to offer competitive pay, comprehensive benefits and a wide variety of resources designed to support the physical, behavioral and financial well-being of our team members and their families, including medical coverage that is intended to be affordable and flexible along with healthcare navigation and support tools.
Our internal recognition programs give team members and customers the opportunity to show their appreciation for a job well done, including through our Nonstop Thanks program whereby team members can award each other points for exceptional service or as an expression of gratitude. Recognition points earned through the recognition program can be redeemed for items in an online catalog. In 2023, our team members were recognized by customers, peers and company leaders approximately three million times and more than 1,600 peer nominations were submitted for the annual Circle of Excellence, the highest honor that we bestow upon our team members for their career achievements.
Our future success depends in large part on our ability to attract, develop and retain highly qualified management, technical and other personnel. Retaining and recruiting people with the appropriate skills became particularly challenging as the economy in general, and the airline industry in particular, recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, and there remains intense competition for the human resources necessary to operate our business successfully. Like many other airlines, we have experienced and continue to experience periodic shortages of frontline team members as a result. For more discussion, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “The loss of key personnel upon whom we depend to operate our business or the inability to attract, develop and retain additional qualified personnel could adversely affect our business.”
Labor Relations
Labor relations in the air transportation industry are regulated under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which vests in the National Mediation Board (NMB) certain functions with respect to disputes between airlines and labor unions relating to union representation and CBAs.
The following table shows our domestic airline employee groups that are represented by unions:
UnionClass or Craft
Employees (1)
Contract
Amendable Date
Mainline:
Allied Pilots Association (APA)Pilots14,500 2027
Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA)Flight Attendants24,950 2019
Airline Customer Service Employee Association – Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (CWA-IBT)
Passenger Service14,650 2029
Transport Workers Union and International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (TWU-IAM Association)
Mechanics and Related12,350 2025
TWU-IAM AssociationFleet Service19,100 2025
TWU-IAM AssociationStock Clerks2,000 2025
TWU-IAM AssociationFlight Simulator Engineers150 2025
TWU-IAM AssociationMaintenance Control Technicians190 2025
TWU-IAM AssociationMaintenance Training Instructors100 2025
Professional Airline Flight Control Association (PAFCA)Dispatchers570 2025
Transport Workers Union (TWU)Flight Crew Training Instructors390 2025
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UnionClass or Craft
Employees (1)
Contract
Amendable Date
Envoy:
Air Line Pilots Associations (ALPA)Pilots2,070 2029
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA)Flight Attendants1,850 2026
TWUGround School Instructors10 2027
TWUMechanics and Related1,200 2027
TWUStock Clerks130 2027
TWUSimulator Instructors20 2026
TWUFleet Service4,020 2026
TWUDispatchers70 2025
Communications Workers of America (CWA)Passenger Service7,000 2026
Piedmont:
ALPAPilots640 2029
AFAFlight Attendants310 2026
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)Mechanics and Related470 2026
IBTStock Clerks60 2026
CWAFleet and Passenger Service6,650 2023
IBTDispatchers40 2025
ALPAFlight Crew Training Instructors70 2029
PSA:
ALPAPilots1,500 2028
AFAFlight Attendants1,190 2023
International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM)
Mechanics and Related680 2027
TWUDispatchers40 2024
ALPAFlight Crew Training Instructors80 2028
(1)Represents approximate number of active employees as of December 31, 2023.
In 2023, a new four-year CBA was ratified by the APA, the union representing our mainline pilots. Additionally, in January 2024, a new five-year CBA was ratified by the CWA-IBT, which is amendable in 2029. The CBA covering our mainline flight attendants is now amendable and negotiations continue. Among our wholly-owned regional subsidiaries, Piedmont fleet and passenger service and PSA flight attendants have agreements that are now amendable and are engaged in negotiations.
For more discussion, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “Union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruptions may adversely affect our operations and financial performance.”
Aircraft Fuel
Our operations and financial results are materially affected by the availability and price of aircraft fuel, which represents one of the largest single cost items in our business. Based on our 2024 forecasted mainline and regional fuel consumption, we estimate that a one cent per gallon increase in the price of aircraft fuel would increase our 2024 annual fuel expense by approximately $45 million.
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The following table shows annual aircraft fuel consumption and costs, including taxes, for our mainline and regional operations for 2023 and 2022 (gallons and aircraft fuel expense in millions).
YearGallonsAverage Price
per Gallon
Aircraft Fuel
Expense
Percent of Total
Operating Expenses
20234,140$2.96$12,25725%
20223,901$3.54$13,79129%
As of December 31, 2023, we did not have any fuel hedging contracts outstanding to hedge our fuel consumption. Our current policy is not to enter into transactions to hedge our fuel consumption, although we review this policy from time to time based on market conditions and other factors. As such, and assuming we do not enter into any future transactions to hedge our fuel consumption, we will continue to be fully exposed to fluctuations in aircraft fuel prices.
Aircraft fuel prices have in the past, and may in the future, experience substantial volatility. We cannot predict the future availability, price volatility or cost of aircraft fuel. For more discussion, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “Our business is very dependent on the price and availability of aircraft fuel. Continued periods of high volatility in fuel costs, increased fuel prices or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a significant negative impact on consumer demand, our operating results and liquidity.”
Seasonality and Other Factors
Due to the greater demand for air travel during the summer months, revenues in the airline industry exhibit seasonal patterns based on the peak travel periods. General economic conditions, fears of terrorism or war, fare initiatives, fluctuations in fuel prices, labor actions, weather, natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, geopolitical factors and other factors could impact this seasonal pattern. Therefore, our quarterly results of operations are not necessarily indicative of operating results for the entire year, and historical operating results in a quarterly or annual period are not necessarily indicative of future operating results.
Domestic and Global Regulatory Landscape
General
Airlines are subject to extensive domestic and international regulatory requirements. Domestically, the DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exercise significant regulatory authority over air carriers.
The DOT, among other things, oversees and regulates domestic and international codeshare agreements, international route authorities, competition and consumer protection matters including accessibility, the display and sharing of ancillary fee information and refund practices. The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, along with the DOT in certain instances, have jurisdiction over airline antitrust matters.
The FAA similarly exercises safety oversight and regulates most operational matters of our business, including how we operate and maintain our aircraft. FAA requirements cover, among other things, required technology and necessary onboard equipment; systems, procedures and training necessary to ensure the continuous airworthiness of our fleet of aircraft; safety measures and equipment; crew scheduling limitations and experience requirements; and many other technical aspects of airline operations. Additionally, our pilots and other employees are subject to rigorous certification standards, and our pilots and other crew members must adhere to flight time and rest requirements.
The FAA also controls the national airspace system, including operational rules and fees for air traffic control (ATC) services. The efficiency, reliability and capacity of the ATC network has a significant impact on our costs and on the timeliness of our operations.
The U.S. Postal Service has jurisdiction over certain aspects of the transportation of mail and related services.
Airport Access and Operations
Domestically, any U.S. airline authorized by the DOT is generally free to operate scheduled passenger service between any two points within the U.S. and its territories, with the exception of certain airports that require landing and take-off rights and authorizations (slots) and other facilities, and certain airports that impose geographic limitations on operations or curtail operations based on the time of day. Operations at three major domestic airports we serve (JFK and LGA in New York City, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) near Washington, D.C.) and many foreign airports we serve (including LHR) are regulated by governmental entities through allocations of slots or similar regulatory mechanisms
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that limit the rights of carriers to conduct operations at those airports. Each slot represents the authorization to land at and take off from the particular airport during a specified time period. In addition to slot restrictions, operations at DCA and LGA are also limited based on a so-called “perimeter rule” which generally limits the stage length of the flights that can be operated from those airports to 1,250 and 1,500 miles, respectively. Generally, our ability to retain slots is conditioned on the continued use of such slots, and in the absence of use, the slots are subject to forfeiture. In certain circumstances, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, regulators may issue slot waivers which temporarily suspend or amend slot usage requirements, and we have used slot waivers at times to reduce flying levels during periods of reduced demand for travel. Moreover, on multiple occasions in 2023, the FAA issued slot waivers for New York City area airports as a result of operational challenges arising from air traffic control staffing shortages; those waivers expire in October 2024, and we cannot guarantee that such waivers will be made available to us, or that upon expiration or cancellation of such waivers it will be economical for us to resume prior levels of flying to destinations where we have operated a reduced service. If we are forced to surrender slots or other rights, we may be unable to provide our desired level of service to or from certain destinations in the future. For more discussion, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “If we are unable to obtain and maintain adequate facilities and infrastructure throughout our system and, at some airports, adequate slots, we may be unable to operate our existing flight schedule and to expand or change our route network in the future, which may have a material adverse impact on our operations.”
Our ability to provide service can also be impaired at airports where the airport gates and other facilities are currently inadequate to accommodate all of the service that we would like to provide, or where we have no access to gates at all.
Existing law also permits domestic local airport authorities to implement procedures and impose restrictions designed to abate noise, provided such procedures and restrictions do not unreasonably interfere with interstate or foreign commerce or the national transportation system. In some instances, these restrictions have caused curtailments in service or increases in operating costs.
Airline Fares, Taxes and User Fees
Airlines are permitted to establish their own domestic fares without governmental regulation. The DOT maintains authority over certain international fares, rates and charges, but only applies this authority on a limited basis. In addition, international fares and rates are sometimes subject to the jurisdiction of the governments of the foreign countries which we serve.
Airlines are obligated to collect a federal excise tax, commonly referred to as the “ticket tax,” on domestic and international air transportation, and to collect other taxes and charge other fees, such as foreign taxes, security fees and passenger facility charges. Although these taxes and fees are not our operating expenses, they represent an additional cost to our customers. These taxes and fees are subject to increase from time to time.
DOT Passenger Protection Rules
The DOT regulates airline interactions with passengers through the ticketing process, at the airport and onboard the aircraft. Among other things, these regulations govern how our fares are displayed online, required customer disclosures, access by disabled passengers, handling of long onboard flight delays and reporting of mishandled bags. In 2023, the DOT finalized rules for accessible lavatories on single-aisle aircraft and has continued to work through proposals for a number of disability regulations that will impact us, including penalties for wheelchair loss or damage and prompt wheelchair assistance. The DOT has also proposed rules requiring refunds for cancellations and significant delays and rules mandating the display of ancillary fees during the initial itinerary search.
International
International air transportation is subject to extensive government regulation, including aviation agreements between the U.S. and other countries or governmental authorities, such as the EU. Moreover, our alliances with international carriers may be subject to the jurisdiction and regulations of various foreign agencies. The U.S. government has negotiated “open skies” agreements with more than 130 trading partners, which allow unrestricted route authority access between the U.S. and the foreign markets.
In addition, foreign countries impose passenger protection rules, which are analogous to, and often meet or exceed the requirements of, the DOT passenger protection rules discussed above. In cases where these foreign requirements exceed the DOT rules, we may bear additional burdens and liabilities. Further, various foreign airport authorities impose noise and curfew restrictions at their local airports.
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Security
All aspects of civil aviation and border security in the U.S. affecting U.S. carriers are controlled or regulated by the federal government through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The TSA is responsible for the security of the nation’s transportation systems. The TSA’s requirements for aviation security include, among other things, screening of passengers, baggage, cargo, mail, employees and vendors; carriage of federal air marshals at no charge; and continuous background checks of all employees and vendor employees with access to secure areas of airports. Funding for the TSA is provided by a combination of air carrier fees, passenger fees and taxpayer funds. The CBP is responsible for securing the nation’s borders by combining customs, immigration and agricultural protection. The CBP regulatory requirements include the transmission of advanced passport data to facilitate the U.S. entry process. Funding for a portion of CBP operations is provided by a combination of fees collected by airlines. Our international service further requires us to comply with host government civil aviation security regimes and foreign border control authorities.
Environmental Matters
Environmental Regulation
The airline industry is subject to various laws and government regulations concerning environmental matters in the U.S. and other countries. U.S. federal laws that have a particular impact on our operations include the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990, the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies may promulgate regulations that have an impact on our operations. In addition to these federal activities, various states have been delegated certain authorities under the aforementioned federal statutes. Many state and local governments have adopted environmental laws and regulations that are similar to or stricter than federal requirements.
Revised underground storage tank regulations issued by the EPA in 2015 have affected certain airport fuel hydrant systems, with modifications of such systems needed in order to comply with applicable portions of the revised regulations. In addition, related to the EPA and state regulations pertaining to storm water management, several U.S. airport authorities are actively engaged in efforts to limit discharges of deicing fluid into the environment, often by requiring airlines to participate in the building or reconfiguring of airport deicing facilities. Additionally, compliance with updated federal and state regulations governing fire extinguishing foams are expected to require modification to fire suppression systems that we operate, as well as those maintained by airports. On November 23, 2022, the EPA also published the final rule for particulate matter emission standards and test procedures for civil aircraft engines, which took effect on December 23, 2022. These or similar regulations could directly or indirectly result in increased compliance costs, but at this time we do not expect these costs to be material.
The environmental laws include those related to responsibility for potential soil and groundwater contamination. We are conducting investigation and remediation activities to address soil and groundwater conditions at several sites, including airports and maintenance bases. We presently anticipate that the ongoing costs of such activities will not have a material impact on our operations.
We employ an environmental management system that provides a systematic approach for compliance with environmental regulations and management of a broad range of environmental issues, including but not limited to air emissions, hazardous waste, underground tanks, and aircraft water quality.
Global and Domestic Regulation Related to Climate Change
Climate change-related regulatory activity and developments may adversely affect our business and financial results by requiring us to adapt to rapidly evolving domestic and international regulation and to achieve emission reductions before cost-effective technologies are available, for example, through requirements to make capital investments to purchase specific types of equipment or technologies, purchase carbon offset credits or otherwise incur additional costs related to our emissions. Such trends may also impact us indirectly by increasing our operating costs, including fuel costs.
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The Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA)
We are subject to the requirements of the CORSIA, an international, market-based emissions reduction program adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2016. CORSIA is intended to achieve carbon-neutral growth in the international aviation sector from 2021 until 2035 through the purchase of certain types of carbon offset credits or the use of eligible renewable fuels.
For each year from 2021 through 2032, CORSIA requires airlines to compensate for the rate of growth of GHG emissions of the aviation sector as a whole, relative to a predetermined baseline as determined by ICAO. ICAO originally defined the baseline as the average emissions from covered flights in 2019 and 2020. However, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on air travel, in June 2020, ICAO removed 2020 from the baseline calculation for the CORSIA pilot phase (2021-2023). In October 2022, ICAO member countries agreed that 85% of 2019 emissions would be used as the baseline for the remainder of CORSIA’s term (2024-2035).
The CORSIA program is being implemented in three phases: a pilot phase that ran from 2021 through 2023, followed by a first phase of the program beginning in 2024 through 2026 and a second phase beginning in 2027 through 2035. ICAO member countries are expected to enact legislation to implement CORSIA. We expect to be required to purchase carbon offset credits to comply with CORSIA’s first phase, however, the U.S. government has not yet enacted implementation legislation.
Our future costs of CORSIA compliance are uncertain due to the uncertainty with respect to the future growth of covered GHG emissions, the supply and price of CORSIA-eligible carbon offset credits and development of the market for eligible renewable fuels.
European GHG Emissions Regulations
On May 16, 2023, revisions to the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) were published in the Official Journal of the EU. Pursuant to these revisions, the allocation of emissions allowances currently granted for free to aircraft operators under the EU ETS will be phased out by 2026, and CORSIA will apply to flights to and from EU countries that are ICAO member countries. The EC will also be required to undertake a review in 2026 to determine whether CORSIA is sufficiently delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement and, to the extent it is determined not to be, would extend the scope of the EU ETS to include all departing flights from the European Economic Area (EEA) (and not just flights within the EEA and flights departing the EEA to the United Kingdom and Switzerland).
In 2023, the European Parliament and the European Council formally adopted the EU’s ReFuelEU Aviation initiative to create a SAF blending mandate for aviation fuel suppliers. The agreed text requires fuel suppliers to ensure that minimum shares of SAF are made available to aircraft operators at EU airports starting January 1, 2025. Such minimum requirements are 2% in 2025, 6% in 2030, 20% in 2035, 34% in 2040, 42% in 2045 and 70% in 2050. In addition, a specific proportion of the fuel mix (1.2% in 2030, 2% in 2032, 5% in 2035 and progressively reaching 35% in 2050) must comprise synthetic fuels such as e-kerosene, and as of 2025, there will be an EU label for the environmental performance of flights, such that airlines may market their flights indicating the expected carbon footprint per passenger. The potential effects on our business of such requirements are uncertain at this time. The UK and other countries have adopted or are considering adoption of a SAF blending mandate similar to that of the EU.
U.S. Emissions Standards for Aircraft Engines
In January 2021, the EPA adopted GHG emission standards for new aircraft engines, which are aligned with the 2017 ICAO aircraft engine GHG emission standards. Like the ICAO standards, the final EPA standards for new aircraft engines would not apply retroactively to engines on in-service aircraft. On November 15, 2021, the EPA announced that it would not rewrite the existing aircraft engine GHG emissions standards but would seek more ambitious new aircraft GHG emission standards within the ICAO process. Since then, the EPA and ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection have had several meetings on this issue, but no further progress has been made. In addition, several states and environmental groups have challenged the EPA’s standards and on June 30, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied such petitions and upheld the EPA’s GHG emissions standards.
For more information on our approach to climate change, see our 2022 Sustainability Report on our website www.aa.com available under “Environmental, Social and Governance.” None of the information or contents under our “Environmental, Social and Governance” page, 2022 Sustainability Report, or our website are incorporated into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
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Impact of Regulatory Requirements on Our Business
Regulatory requirements, including but not limited to those discussed above, affect operations and increase operating costs for the airline industry, including our airline subsidiaries, and future regulatory developments may continue to do the same. For additional information, see Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “Evolving cybersecurity and data privacy requirements (in particular, compliance with applicable federal, state and foreign laws relating to handling of personal information about individuals) could increase our costs, and any significant cybersecurity or data privacy incident could disrupt our operations, harm our reputation, expose us to legal risks and otherwise materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition,” “If we are unable to obtain and maintain adequate facilities and infrastructure throughout our system and, at some airports, adequate slots, we may be unable to operate our existing flight schedule and to expand or change our route network in the future, which may have a material adverse impact on our operations,” “Our business is subject to extensive government regulation, which may result in increases in our costs, disruptions to our operations, limits on our operating flexibility, reductions in the demand for air travel, and competitive disadvantages,” “The airline industry is heavily taxed,“We are subject to many forms of environmental and noise regulation and may incur substantial costs as a result,” and “We are subject to risks associated with climate change, including increased regulation of our GHG emissions, changing consumer preferences and the potential for increased impacts of severe weather events on our operations and infrastructure.”
Available Information
Use of Websites to Disclose Information
Our website is located at www.aa.com. We have made, and expect in the future to make, public disclosures to investors and the general public of information regarding AAG and its subsidiaries by means of the investor relations section of our website as well as through the use of our social media sites, including Facebook and X. In order to receive notifications regarding new postings to our website, investors are encouraged to enroll on our website to receive automatic email alerts (see https://americanairlines.gcs-web.com/email-alerts), “follow” American (@AmericanAir) on X and “like” American on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AmericanAirlines). None of the information or contents of our website or social media postings is incorporated into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
Availability of SEC Reports
A copy of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports are available free of charge on our website as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. The SEC also maintains a website that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at www.sec.gov.
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ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Below are certain risk factors that may affect our business, results of operations and financial condition, or the trading price of our common stock or other securities. We caution the reader that these risk factors may not be exhaustive. We operate in a continually changing business environment, and new risks and uncertainties emerge from time to time. Management cannot predict such new risks and uncertainties, nor can it assess the extent to which any of the risk factors below or any such new risks and uncertainties, or any combination thereof, may impact our business.
Risks Related to our Business and Industry
Downturns in economic conditions could adversely affect our business.
Due to the discretionary nature of business and leisure travel spending and the highly competitive nature of the airline industry, our revenues are heavily influenced by the condition of the U.S. economy and economies in other regions of the world. Unfavorable conditions in these broader economies have resulted, and may result in the future, in decreased passenger demand for air travel, changes in booking practices and related reactions by our competitors, all of which in turn have had, and may have in the future, a strong negative effect on our business. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated decline in economic activity and increase in unemployment levels had a severe and prolonged effect on the global economy generally and, in turn, resulted in a prolonged period of depressed demand for air travel. In addition, a rapid economic expansion following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significant inflationary pressures and volatility in certain currencies, which have increased our costs for aircraft fuel, wages and benefits and other goods and services we require to operate our business, as well as increasing the interest expense on our variable-rate indebtedness.
We will need to obtain sufficient financing or other capital to operate successfully.
Our business plan contemplates continued significant investments related to our fleet, improving the experience of our customers and updating our facilities. Significant capital resources will be required to execute this plan. We estimate that, based on our commitments as of December 31, 2023, our planned aggregate expenditures for aircraft purchase commitments and certain engines for calendar years 2024 through 2028 would be approximately $11.7 billion. We may also require financing to refinance maturing obligations and to provide liquidity to fund other corporate requirements. Accordingly, we will need substantial liquidity, financing or other capital resources to finance such aircraft and engines and meet such other liquidity needs. If needed, it may be difficult for us to raise additional capital on acceptable terms, or at all, due to, among other factors: our substantial level of existing indebtedness, particularly following transactions we completed in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; our non-investment grade credit rating; volatile or otherwise unfavorable market conditions; and the availability of assets to use as collateral for loans or other indebtedness, which has been reduced significantly as a result of certain financing transactions we have undertaken since the beginning of 2020 and may be further reduced. If we are unable to arrange any such required financing at customary advance rates and on terms and conditions acceptable to us, we may need to use cash from operations or cash on hand to purchase aircraft and engines or fund our other corporate requirements, or may seek to negotiate deferrals for such aircraft and engines with the applicable manufacturers or otherwise defer corporate obligations. Depending on numerous factors applicable at the time we seek capital, many of which are out of our control, such as the state of the domestic and global economies, the capital and credit markets’ view of our prospects and the airline industry in general, and the general availability of debt and equity capital, the financing or other capital resources that we will need may not be available to us, or may be available only on onerous terms and conditions. Furthermore, we hold significant balances of cash and short-term investments, including as necessary to conduct our day-to-day operations, some of which are held in deposit accounts at commercial banks in excess of the government-provided deposit insurance. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in obtaining financing or other needed sources of capital to operate successfully or to fund our committed expenditures. An inability to obtain necessary financing on acceptable terms would limit our ability to execute necessary capital projects and would have a material adverse impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our high level of debt and other obligations may limit our ability to fund general corporate requirements and obtain additional financing, may limit our flexibility in responding to competitive developments and may cause our business to be vulnerable to adverse economic and industry conditions.
We have significant amounts of indebtedness and other financial obligations, including pension obligations, obligations to make future payments on flight equipment and property leases related to airport and other facilities, and substantial non-cancelable obligations under aircraft and related spare engine purchase agreements. Moreover, currently a very significant portion of our assets are pledged to secure our indebtedness. Our substantial indebtedness and other
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obligations, which are generally greater than the indebtedness and other obligations of our competitors, could have important consequences. For example, they may:
make it more difficult for us to satisfy our obligations under our indebtedness;
limit our ability to obtain additional funding for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions, investments and general corporate purposes, and adversely affect the terms on which such funding can be obtained;
require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our liquidity or cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness and other obligations, thereby reducing the funds available for other purposes;
make us more vulnerable to economic downturns, industry conditions and catastrophic external events, particularly relative to competitors with lower relative levels of financial leverage;
significantly constrain our ability to respond, or respond quickly, to unexpected disruptions in our own operations, the U.S. or global economies, or the businesses in which we operate, or to take advantage of opportunities that would improve our business, operations, or competitive position versus other airlines;
limit our ability to withstand competitive pressures and reduce our flexibility in responding to changing business and economic conditions;
bear interest at floating rates, subjecting us to volatility in interest expenses as interest rates fluctuate;
contain covenants requiring us to maintain an aggregate of at least $2.0 billion of unrestricted cash and cash equivalents and amounts available to be drawn under revolving credit facilities and collateral coverage ratios and peak debt service coverage ratios;
impact availability of borrowings under revolving lines of credit; and
contain restrictive covenants that could, among other things:
limit our ability to merge, consolidate, sell assets, incur additional indebtedness, issue preferred stock, make investments and pay dividends; and
if breached, result in an event of default under our other indebtedness.
In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic we were required to obtain a significant amount of additional financing from a variety of sources and we cannot guarantee that we will not need to obtain additional financing in the future. Such financing may include the issuance of additional unsecured or secured debt securities, equity securities and equity-linked securities as well as additional bilateral and syndicated secured and/or unsecured credit facilities, among other items. There can be no assurance as to the timing of any such financing transactions, which may be in the near term, or that we will be able to obtain such additional financing on favorable terms, or at all. Any such actions may be material in nature, could result in the incurrence and issuance of significant additional indebtedness or equity and could impose significant covenants and restrictions to which we are not currently subject. Moreover, as a result of the financing activities we undertook in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of financings with respect to which such covenants and provisions apply has increased, thereby subjecting us to more substantial risk of cross-default and cross-acceleration in the event of breach, and additional covenants and provisions could become binding on us should we seek additional liquidity in the future.
The obligations discussed above, including those imposed as a result of any additional financings we may undertake, could also impact our ability to obtain additional financing, if needed, and our flexibility in the conduct of our business, and could materially adversely affect our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition.
Further, a substantial amount of our long-term indebtedness bears interest at floating interest rates, which tend to fluctuate based on general short-term interest rates, rates set by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks, the supply of and demand for credit in treasury repurchase or other markets and general economic conditions. We have not hedged our interest rate exposure with respect to our floating rate debt. Accordingly, our interest expense for any particular period will fluctuate based on the relevant benchmark rate and other variable interest rates. In 2022 and 2023, in response to rising inflation which coincided with a rapid rebound of economic activity as governments lifted restrictions and economies reopened following the COVID-19 pandemic, central banks around the world—including the U.S. Federal
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Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England—undertook a cycle of raising interest rates, which has consequently increased the interest we pay on our floating-rate indebtedness. To the extent the interest rates applicable to our floating rate debt remain elevated or continue to increase, our interest expense will increase, in which event we may have difficulties making interest payments and funding our other fixed costs, and our available cash flow for general corporate requirements may be adversely affected.
In connection with the phase-out of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) as a reference rate in June 2023, the U.S. Federal Reserve, in conjunction with the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, chose the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), and specifically Term SOFR, as the recommended risk-free reference rate for the U.S. (calculated based on repurchase agreements backed by treasury securities). Prior to the discontinuation of LIBOR, we amended substantially all of our LIBOR-based financing arrangements to transition them to successor rates, primarily Term SOFR. We cannot predict the extent to which Term SOFR will gain widespread acceptance as a replacement for LIBOR, the consequences of the replacement of LIBOR on financial markets generally or on our business, financial condition or results of operations specifically, and our transition to successor rates could cause the amount of interest payable on our long-term debt to be different or higher than expected.
We have significant pension and other postretirement benefit funding obligations, which may adversely affect our liquidity, results of operations and financial condition.
Our pension funding obligations are significant. The amount of our pension funding obligations will depend on the performance of investments held in trust by the pension plans, interest rates for determining liabilities and actuarial experience. We also have significant obligations for retiree medical and other postretirement benefits.
Additionally, we participate in the IAM National Pension Fund (the IAM Pension Fund). The funding status of the IAM Pension Fund is subject to the risk that other employers may not meet their obligations, which under certain circumstances could cause our obligations to increase. On March 29, 2019, the actuary for the IAM Pension Fund certified that the fund was in “endangered” status despite reporting a funded status of over 80%. Additionally, the IAM Pension Fund’s Board voluntarily elected to enter into “critical” status on April 17, 2019. Upon entry into critical status, the IAM Pension Fund was required by law to adopt a rehabilitation plan aimed at restoring the financial health of the pension plan and did so on April 17, 2019 (the Rehabilitation Plan). Under the Rehabilitation Plan, American was subject to an immaterial contribution surcharge, which ceased to apply on June 14, 2019 upon American’s mandatory adoption of a contribution schedule under the Rehabilitation Plan. The contribution schedule requires 2.5% annual increases to its contribution rate. This contribution schedule will remain in effect through the earlier of December 31, 2031 or the date the IAM Pension Fund emerges from critical status. Furthermore, if we were to withdraw from the IAM Pension Fund, if the IAM Pension fund were to terminate, or if the IAM Pension Fund were to undergo a mass withdrawal, we could be subject to liability as imposed by law.
If our financial condition worsens, provisions in our credit card processing and other commercial agreements may adversely affect our liquidity.
We have agreements with companies that process customer credit card transactions for the sale of air travel and other services. These agreements allow these credit card processing companies, under certain conditions (including, with respect to certain agreements, our failure to maintain certain levels of liquidity), to hold an amount of our cash (referred to as a holdback) equal to some or all of the advance ticket sales that have been processed by that credit card processor, but for which we have not yet provided the air transportation. Additionally, such credit card processing companies may require cash or other collateral reserves to be established. These credit card processing companies are not currently entitled to maintain any holdbacks pursuant to these requirements. These holdback requirements can be implemented at the discretion of the credit card processing companies upon the occurrence of specific events, including material adverse changes in our financial condition or the triggering of a liquidity covenant. The imposition of holdback requirements, up to and including 100% of relevant advanced ticket sales, would materially reduce our liquidity. Likewise, other of our commercial agreements contain provisions that allow counterparties to impose less-favorable terms, including the acceleration of amounts due, in the event of material adverse changes in our financial condition. For example, we maintain certain letters of credit as well as insurance- and surety-related agreements under which counterparties may require collateral, including cash collateral.
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The loss of key personnel upon whom we depend to operate our business or the inability to attract, develop and retain additional qualified personnel could adversely affect our business.
We believe that our future success will depend in large part on our ability to attract, develop and retain highly qualified management, technical and other personnel. Retaining and recruiting people with the appropriate skills is particularly challenging as the economy in general, and the airline industry in particular, continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in competition for the human resources necessary to operate our business successfully. We may not be successful in attracting, developing or retaining key personnel or other highly qualified personnel. In addition, competition for skilled personnel has intensified and may continue to intensify if overall industry capacity continues to increase and/or we were to incur attrition at levels higher than we have historically. Any inability to attract, develop and retain significant numbers of qualified management and other personnel would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business has been and will continue to be materially affected by many changing economic, geopolitical, commercial, regulatory and other conditions beyond our control, including global events that affect travel behavior, and our results of operations could be volatile and fluctuate materially due to changes in such conditions.
Our business, results of operations and financial condition have been and will continue to be affected by many changing economic, geopolitical, commercial, regulatory and other conditions beyond our control, including, among others:
actual or potential changes in international, national, regional and local economic, business and financial conditions, including recession, inflation and higher interest rates;
the occurrence of wars, conflicts, terrorist attacks and geopolitical instability;
changes in consumer preferences, perceptions, spending patterns and demographic trends;
changes in the competitive environment due to industry consolidation, changes in airline alliance affiliations and other factors;
delays in scheduled aircraft deliveries, unexpected grounding of aircraft or aircraft engines whether by regulators or by us, or other loss of anticipated fleet capacity, and failure of new aircraft to receive regulatory approval, be produced or otherwise perform as and when expected;
actual or potential disruptions to the U.S. National Airspace System (the ATC system);
increases in costs of safety, security and environmental measures;
increases in costs related to meeting our climate goals or obligations, including in respect of the costs to be incurred to migrate to increased use of SAF in lieu of conventional aviation fuel;
outbreaks of diseases or other public health or safety concerns that affect travel behavior, such as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic; and
weather and natural disasters, including increases in frequency, severity or duration of such disasters, and related costs caused by more severe weather due to climate change.
The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the measures governments and private organizations worldwide implemented in an attempt to contain its spread, resulted in significant volatility in demand for air travel, which adversely affected our business, operations and financial condition to an unprecedented extent and for a prolonged period. Measures implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic—such as travel restrictions, including testing regimes, “stay at home” and quarantine orders, limitations on public gatherings, cancellation of public events and many others—initially resulted in a precipitous decline in demand for both domestic and international business and leisure travel. In response to this material deterioration in demand, we took a number of aggressive actions to ameliorate the impacts to our business, operations and financial condition. While governments have loosened or lifted COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the potential for a resurgence of COVID-19, including the emergence and spread of any new variants, and its after effects remain uncertain, and there can be no assurance that any mitigating actions we take in response will be sufficient to avert a deterioration in our business, financial condition and results of operations. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated changes in business practices which may persist. For example, businesses and other travelers may continue to forego air travel in
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favor of remote or flexible working policies and communication alternatives such as videoconferencing. In addition, businesses may seek to reduce travel costs by requiring the purchase of less expensive tickets, thereby potentially impacting our average revenue per available seat mile.
In addition to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an outbreak of another contagious disease—such as has occurred in the past with the Ebola virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, H1N1 influenza virus, avian flu, Zika virus or any other similar illness—if it were to become associated with air travel or persist for an extended period, could materially affect the airline industry and us by reducing revenues and adversely impacting our operations and passengers’ travel behavior. As a result of these or other conditions beyond our control, our results of operations could be volatile and subject to rapid and unexpected change. In addition, due to generally weaker demand for air travel during the winter, our revenues in the first and fourth quarters of the year could be weaker than revenues in the second and third quarters of the year.
The airline industry is intensely competitive and dynamic.
Our competitors include other major domestic airlines and foreign, regional and new entrant airlines, as well as joint ventures formed by some of these airlines, many of which have greater financial or other resources and/or lower cost structures than ours, as well as other forms of transportation, such as rail and private automobiles or alternatives to commuting or business travel including remote or flexible working policies and communication alternatives such as videoconferencing. In many of our markets, we compete with at least one low-cost carrier (including so-called ultra-low-cost carriers). Our revenues are sensitive to the actions of other carriers in many areas, including pricing, scheduling, capacity, fees (including cancellation, change and baggage fees), amenities, loyalty benefits and promotions, which can have a substantial adverse impact not only on our revenues, but on overall industry revenues. These factors may become even more significant in periods when the industry experiences large losses (such as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic), as airlines under financial stress, or in bankruptcy, may institute pricing or fee structures intended to attract more customers to achieve near-term survival at the expense of long-term viability.
Low-cost carriers (including so-called ultra-low-cost carriers) have a profound impact on industry revenues. Using the advantage of low unit costs, these carriers offer lower fares in order to shift demand from larger, more established airlines, and represent significant competitors, particularly for customers who fly infrequently or are price sensitive and therefore tend not to be loyal to any one particular carrier. Many of these carriers, including several that have recently commenced operations, have announced growth strategies including commitments to acquire significant numbers of new aircraft for delivery in the next few years. These low-cost carriers are attempting to continue to increase their market share through growth and consolidation, and are expected to continue to have an impact on our revenues and overall performance. We and several other large network carriers have implemented “Basic Economy” fares designed to more effectively compete against low-cost carriers, but we cannot predict whether these initiatives will be successful. While historically these carriers have provided competition in domestic markets, we have recently experienced new competition from low-cost carriers on international routes, including low-cost airlines executing international long-haul expansion strategies, a trend likely to continue, in particular with the planned introduction of long-range narrowbody aircraft in coming years. Additionally, other carriers focused on premium passenger travel are attempting to implement growth strategies. The actions of existing or future carriers, including those described above, could have a material adverse effect on our operations and financial performance.
In certain instances, other air carriers are attempting to operate scheduled service with a business model that relies on FAA Part 135, a regulatory environment that is generally less stringent than the rules applicable to our airline and similar airlines that operate under FAA Part 121 and which provides those airlines certain competitive advantages that Part 121 airlines cannot replicate. We have objected to the DOT and TSA that the less stringent Part 135 rules were never intended as a basis for scheduled passenger service and that business model should not be permissible, and the agencies’ review is ongoing. A DOT or TSA decision to allow scheduled passenger service under Part 135 and the actions of existing or future carriers using that business model, including those described above, could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We provide air travel internationally, directly as well as through joint businesses, strategic alliances, codeshare and similar arrangements to which we are a party. While our network is comprehensive, compared to some of our key global competitors, we generally have somewhat greater relative exposure to certain regions (for example, Latin America) and somewhat lower relative exposure to others (for example, Asia). Our financial performance relative to our key competitors will therefore be influenced significantly by macro-economic conditions in particular regions around the world and the relative exposure of our network to the markets in those regions, including the duration of any declines in demand for
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travel to specific regions as a result of health emergencies (such as during the COVID-19 pandemic), geopolitical instability or other factors, and the speed with which demand for travel to these regions returns.
Our international service exposes us to foreign economies and the potential for reduced demand when any foreign country we serve suffers adverse local economic conditions or if governments restrict commercial air service to or from any of these markets. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a precipitous and prolonged decline in demand for air travel, in particular international travel, in part as a result of the imposition by the U.S. and foreign governments of restrictions on travel from certain regions. In addition, open skies agreements, which are now in place with a substantial number of countries around the world, provide international airlines with open access to U.S. markets, potentially subjecting us to increased competition on our international routes. See also “Our business is subject to extensive government regulation, which may result in increases in our costs, disruptions to our operations, limits on our operating flexibility, reductions in the demand for air travel, and competitive disadvantages.”
To the extent alliances formed by our competitors can undertake activities that are not available to us, including as to regulatory approvals, access slots, gates and routes and other matters, our ability to effectively compete may be hindered. Our ability to attract and retain customers is dependent upon, among other things, our ability to offer our customers convenient access to desired markets. Our business could be adversely affected if we are unable to maintain or obtain alliance and marketing relationships with other air carriers in desired markets.
American has established a transatlantic joint business with British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Finnair, a transpacific joint business with Japan Airlines and a joint business relating to Australia and New Zealand with Qantas. We have also established a strategic alliance with Alaska Airlines relating to certain routes on the West Coast of the United States and a strategic alliance relating to the Middle East with Qatar Airways. In July 2010, in connection with a regulatory review related to our transatlantic joint business, we provided certain commitments to the EC regarding, among other things, the availability of take-off and landing slots at LHR or LGW airports. The commitments accepted by the EC were binding for 10 years. In anticipation of both the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit, and the expiry of the EC commitments in July 2020, the CMA, in October 2018, opened an investigation into the transatlantic joint business. In September 2020 and April 2022, the CMA adopted interim measures that effectively extend the EC commitments until March 2026 in light of the uncertainty and other impacts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMA restarted its investigation in September 2023 after a pause related to the COVID-19 pandemic and plans to complete the investigation before the scheduled expiration of the interim measures in March 2026. We continue to cooperate fully with the CMA. The foregoing arrangements are important aspects of our international network and we are dependent on the performance and continued cooperation of the other airlines party to those arrangements.
On May 19, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an order permanently enjoining American and JetBlue from continuing and further implementing the NEA. In June 2023, JetBlue delivered a notice of termination of the NEA, effective July 29, 2023, and the carriers have commenced wind-down activities to accommodate mutual customers. American has appealed the District Court’s decision to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; American’s opening brief was filed on December 6, 2023. Separately, in December 2022, two putative class action lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York alleging that American and JetBlue violated U.S. antitrust law in connection with the previously disclosed NEA. In February 2023, private party plaintiffs filed two additional putative class action antitrust complaints against American and JetBlue in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, respectively. All cases have since been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. American, together with JetBlue, filed a motion to dismiss on September 21, 2023, which remains pending. The motions to dismiss argue, among other things, that the plaintiffs each waived their right to bring class action claims. We believe these complaints are without merit and are defending against them vigorously.
No assurances can be given as to any benefits that we may derive from any of the foregoing arrangements or any other arrangements that may ultimately be implemented, or whether regulators will, or if granted continue to, approve or impose material conditions on our business activities.
Other mergers and other forms of airline partnerships, including regulatory approvals such as antitrust immunity grants, may take place and may not involve us as a participant, or could result in unforeseen impacts on the industry generally and our company in particular. Depending on which carriers combine or integrate and which assets, if any, are sold or otherwise transferred to other carriers in connection with any such transactions, our competitive position relative to the post-transaction carriers or other carriers that acquire such assets could be harmed. In addition, as carriers combine through traditional mergers or integrate their operations through other arrangements, their route networks will grow, and that growth will result in greater overlap with our network, which in turn could decrease our overall market share and
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revenues. Such combination or collaboration is not limited to the U.S., but could include further transactions among international carriers in Europe and elsewhere that result in broader networks offered by rival airlines.
Additionally, our AAdvantage program, which is an important element of our sales and marketing programs, faces significant and increasing competition from the loyalty programs offered by other travel companies, as well as from similar loyalty benefits offered by banks and other financial services companies. Competition among loyalty programs is intense regarding the rewards, fees, required usage, and other terms and conditions of these programs. In addition, we have used certain assets from our AAdvantage program as collateral for the AAdvantage Financing, which contains covenants that impose restrictions on certain amendments or changes to certain of our AAdvantage program agreements provided as collateral under the AAdvantage Financing and other aspects of the AAdvantage program. These competitive factors and covenants (to the extent applicable) may affect our ability to attract and retain customers, increase usage of our loyalty program and maximize the revenue generated by our loyalty program.
We may also be impacted by competition regulations affecting certain of our major commercial partners, including our co-branded credit card partners. For example, there has been bipartisan legislation proposed in Congress called the Credit Card Competition Act designed to increase credit card transaction routing options for merchants which, if enacted, could result in a reduction of the fees levied on credit card transactions. If this legislation or any similar legislation or regulation were enacted, it could fundamentally alter the profitability of our agreements with co-branded credit card partners and the benefits we provide to our consumers through the co-branded credit cards issued by these partners.
Union disputes, employee strikes and other labor-related disruptions may adversely affect our operations and financial performance.
Relations between air carriers and labor unions in the U.S. are governed by the RLA. Under the RLA, CBAs generally contain “amendable dates” rather than expiration dates, and the RLA requires that a carrier maintain the existing terms and conditions of employment following the amendable date through a multi-stage and usually lengthy series of bargaining processes overseen by the NMB. As of December 31, 2023, approximately 87% of our employees were represented for collective bargaining purposes by labor unions, and 34% were covered by CBAs that are currently amendable or that will become amendable within one year. For the dates that the CBAs with our major work groups become amendable under the RLA, see “Labor Relations” under Part I, Item 1. Business – “Sustainability Our People.”
In the case of a CBA that is amendable under the RLA, if no agreement is reached during direct negotiations between the parties, either party may request that the NMB appoint a federal mediator. The RLA prescribes no timetable for the direct negotiation and mediation processes, and it is not unusual for those processes to last for many months or even several years. If no agreement is reached in mediation, the NMB in its discretion may declare that an impasse exists and proffer binding arbitration to the parties. Either party may decline to submit to arbitration, and if arbitration is rejected by either party, a 30-day “cooling off” period commences. During or after that period, a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) may be established, which examines the parties’ positions and recommends a solution. The PEB process lasts for 30 days and is followed by another 30-day “cooling off” period. At the end of this “cooling off” period, unless an agreement is reached or action is taken by Congress, the labor organization may exercise “self-help,” such as a strike, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
None of the unions representing our employees presently may lawfully engage in concerted slowdowns or refusals to work, such as strikes, sick-outs or other similar activity, against us. Nonetheless, there is a risk that employees, either with or without union involvement, could engage in one or more concerted refusals to work that could individually or collectively harm the operation of our airline and impair our financial performance. Additionally, some of our unions have brought and may continue to bring grievances to binding arbitration, including those related to wages. If successful, there is a risk these arbitral avenues could result in material additional costs that we did not anticipate.
Currently, we believe our labor costs are generally competitive relative to the other large network carriers. However, personnel shortages, in particular for pilots, and general wage inflation stand to impact our labor costs moving forward. In July 2023, we reached a tentative agreement with the union representing our mainline pilots, which was subsequently ratified by the pilots in August 2023. The new agreement, which became effective in the third quarter of 2023, includes significant increases in pilot pay and benefits, in line with agreements recently concluded by our large network competitors with their pilots’ unions. We remain in negotiations for other new labor agreements and anticipate that any new contracts we agree to with our labor groups will include material increases in salaries and other benefits, which will significantly increase our labor expense.
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If we encounter problems with any of our third-party regional operators or third-party service providers, our operations could be adversely affected by a resulting decline in revenue or negative public perception about our services.
A significant portion of our regional operations are conducted by third-party operators on our behalf and are provided for under capacity purchase agreements. Due to our reliance on third parties to provide these essential services, we are subject to the risk of disruptions to their operations, which has in the past and may in the future result from many of the same risk factors disclosed in this report, such as the impact of adverse economic conditions, the inability of third parties to hire or retain skilled personnel, including in particular pilots and mechanics, and other risk factors, such as an out-of-court or bankruptcy restructuring of any of our regional operators. Several of these third-party regional operators provide significant regional capacity that we would be unable to replace in a short period of time should that operator fail to perform its obligations to us. Disruptions to capital markets, shortages of pilots, mechanics and other skilled personnel and adverse economic conditions in general have subjected certain of these third-party regional operators to significant financial pressures, which have in the past and may in the future lead to bankruptcies among these operators. In particular, the severe decline in demand for air travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and related governmental restrictions on travel materially impacted demand for services provided by our regional carriers and, as a result, we temporarily significantly reduced our regional capacity. Further, as airlines attempt to restore capacity in line with increased demand for air travel following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, these third-party operators have experienced difficulties in recruiting and retaining sufficient personnel to operate significantly increased schedules, and have in some instances been required to offer significant increases in pay and other benefits to recruit and retain pilots and other personnel. Periods of volatility in travel demand have the potential to adversely affect our regional operators, some of whom may experience significant financial stress, declare bankruptcy or otherwise cease to operate. We may also experience disruption to our regional operations or incur financial damages if we terminate the capacity purchase agreement with one or more of our current operators or transition the services to another provider. Any significant disruption to our regional operations would have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, our reliance upon others to provide essential services on our behalf in our operations may result in our relative inability to control the efficiency and timeliness of contract services. We have entered into agreements with contractors to provide various facilities and services required for our operations, including distribution and sale of airline seat inventory, reservations, provision of information technology and services, regional operations, aircraft maintenance, fueling, catering, ground services and facilities and baggage handling. Similar agreements may be entered into in any new markets we decide to serve. These agreements are generally subject to termination after notice by the third-party service provider. We are also at risk should one of these service providers cease operations, and there is no guarantee that we could replace these providers on a timely basis with comparably priced providers, or at all. These third parties are also facing challenges retaining and recruiting people with the appropriate skills to meet our requirements as the economy in general, and the airline industry in particular, continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic also caused significant disruption in global supply chains and staffing shortages, which have affected and may continue to affect the availability and timely delivery and fulfillment of many goods, including certain of those that we purchase directly or which are required by third parties to perform contracted services for us. We rely on the operation of complex supply chains and a large number of third parties for the procurement and fulfillment of parts, components, consumable or disposable goods and other products and services essential to our business. Following a faster than expected return of demand for air travel as COVID-19 cases declined worldwide and governments lifted travel restrictions, suppliers and many of the airports we serve experienced acute shortages of personnel, resulting in increased delays, cancellations and, in certain cases, restrictions on passenger numbers or the number of flights to or from certain airports. We cannot guarantee that, as a result of ongoing or future supply chain disruptions or staffing shortages, we, our third-party partners, or the airports we serve will be able to timely source all of the products and services we require in the course of our business, or that we will be successful in procuring suitable alternatives. Any material problems with the adequacy, efficiency and timeliness of contract services, resulting from financial hardships, personnel shortages or otherwise, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Any damage to our reputation or brand image could adversely affect our business or financial results.
Maintaining a good reputation globally is critical to our business. Our reputation or brand image could be adversely impacted by, among other things, any failure to maintain high ethical, social and environmental sustainability practices for all of our operations and activities, our impact on the environment, public pressure from investors or policy groups to change our policies, such as movements to institute a “living wage,” customer perceptions of our advertising campaigns, sponsorship arrangements or marketing programs, customer perceptions of our use of social media, including greenwashing concerns regarding our advertising campaigns and marketing programs related to our sustainability
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initiatives, or customer perceptions of statements made by us, our employees and executives, agents or other third parties. In addition, we operate in a highly visible industry that has significant exposure to social media. Negative publicity, including as a result of misconduct by our customers, vendors or employees, can spread rapidly through social media. Should we not respond in a timely and appropriate manner to address negative publicity, our brand and reputation may be significantly harmed. Damage to our reputation or brand image or loss of customer confidence in our services could adversely affect our business and financial results, as well as require additional resources to rebuild our reputation.
Moreover, an outbreak and spread of an infectious disease could adversely impact consumer perceptions of the health and safety of travel, and in particular airline travel, such as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Actual or perceived risk of infection on our flights could have a material adverse effect on the public's perception of us and may harm our reputation and business. We have in the past, and may in the future be required to take extensive measures to reassure our team members and the traveling public of the safety of air travel, and we could incur significant costs implementing safety, hygiene-related or other actions to limit the actual or perceived threat of infection among our employees and passengers. However, we cannot assure that any actions we might take in response to an infectious disease outbreak will be sufficient to restore the confidence of consumers in the safety of air travel. In addition, as a result of mask mandates and other mitigating measures that airports and carriers were required by law to implement to limit the spread of COVID-19, we experienced an increase in the incidence of aggressive customer behavior and physical confrontation on our flights, certain of which resulted in injuries to our personnel. While the rate of these incidents has declined following the lifting of mask mandates and other COVID-19 measures, if our employees feel unsafe or believe that we are not doing enough to prevent and prosecute such incidents, we could experience higher rates of employee absence or attrition and we may suffer reputational harm which could make it more difficult to attract and retain employees, and which could in turn negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are at risk of losses and adverse publicity stemming from any public incident involving our company, our people or our brand, including any accident or other public incident involving our personnel or aircraft, or the personnel or aircraft of our regional, codeshare or joint business operators.
We are at risk of adverse publicity stemming from any public incident involving our company, our people or our brand, particularly given the ease with which individuals can now capture and rapidly disseminate information via social media. Such an incident could involve the actual or alleged behavior of any of our employees, contractors or passengers. Further, if our personnel, one of our aircraft, a type of aircraft in our fleet, or personnel of, or an aircraft that is operated under our brand by, one of our regional operators or an airline with which we have a marketing alliance, joint business or codeshare relationship, were to be involved in a public incident, accident, catastrophe or regulatory enforcement action, we could be exposed to significant reputational harm and potential legal liability. The insurance we carry may be inapplicable or inadequate to cover any such incident, accident, catastrophe or action. In the event that our insurance is inapplicable or inadequate, we may be forced to bear substantial losses from an incident or accident. In addition, any such incident, accident, catastrophe or action involving our personnel, one of our aircraft (or personnel and aircraft of our regional operators and our codeshare partners), or a type of aircraft in our fleet could create an adverse public perception, which could harm our reputation, result in air travelers being reluctant to fly on our aircraft or those of our regional operators or codeshare partners, and adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Changes to our business model that are designed to increase revenues may not be successful and may cause operational difficulties or decreased demand.
We have in the past instituted, and intend to institute in the future, changes to our business model designed to increase revenues and offset costs. These measures include further segmentation of the classes of service we offer, such as Premium Economy service and Basic Economy service, enhancements to our AAdvantage program, charging separately for services that had previously been included within the price of a ticket, changes to our practices and contracts with providers of distribution systems to provide additional content flexibility, commercial practices related to ticket distribution channels, including efforts by us to migrate an increasing portion of our customers to our modern, direct distribution channels in lieu of third party channels, changing (whether it be increasing, decreasing or eliminating) other pre-existing fees, reconfiguration of our aircraft cabins, and efforts to optimize our network including by focusing growth on a limited number of large hubs and entering into agreements with other airlines. For example, in 2020, we eliminated change fees for most domestic and international tickets, which has reduced our change fee revenue, a trend which is expected to continue assuming this policy remains in place. We may introduce additional initiatives in the future; however, as time goes on, we expect that it will be more difficult to identify and implement additional initiatives. We cannot assure that these measures or any future initiatives will be successful in increasing our revenues or offsetting our costs. Additionally, the implementation of these initiatives may create logistical challenges that could harm the operational performance of our airline or result in decreased demand. Also, our implementation of any new or increased fees might result in adverse
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brand perceptions, reputational harm or regulatory scrutiny, and could reduce the demand for air travel on our airline or across the industry in general, particularly if weakened economic conditions make our customers more sensitive to increased travel costs or provide a significant competitive advantage to other carriers that determine not to institute similar charges.
Our intellectual property rights, particularly our branding rights, are valuable, and any inability to protect them may adversely affect our business and financial results.
We consider our intellectual property rights, particularly our branding rights such as our trademarks applicable to our airline and AAdvantage program, to be a significant and valuable aspect of our business. We protect our intellectual property rights through a combination of trademark, copyright and other forms of legal protection, contractual agreements and policing of third-party misuses of our intellectual property. Our failure to obtain or adequately protect our intellectual property or any change in law that lessens or removes the current legal protections of our intellectual property may diminish our competitiveness and adversely affect our business and financial results. Any litigation or disputes regarding intellectual property may be costly and time-consuming and may divert the attention of our management and key personnel from our business operations, either of which may adversely affect our business and financial results.
In addition, we have used certain of our branding and AAdvantage program intellectual property as collateral for various financings (including the AAdvantage Financing, defined in the accompanying notes to the consolidated financial statements to this Annual Report on Form 10-K), which contain covenants that impose restrictions on the use of such intellectual property and, in the case of the AAdvantage Financing, on certain amendments or changes to our AAdvantage program. These covenants may have an adverse effect on our ability to use such intellectual property.
We may be a party to litigation in the normal course of business or otherwise, which could affect our financial position and liquidity.
From time to time, we are a party to or otherwise involved in legal proceedings, claims and government inspections or investigations and other legal matters, both inside and outside the United States, arising in the ordinary course of our business or otherwise. We are currently involved in various legal proceedings and claims that have not yet been fully resolved, and additional claims may arise in the future. Legal proceedings can be complex and take many months, or even years, to reach resolution, with the final outcome depending on a number of variables, some of which are not within our control. Litigation is subject to significant uncertainty and may be expensive, time-consuming, and disruptive to our operations. Although we will vigorously defend ourselves in such legal proceedings, their ultimate resolution and potential financial and other impacts on us are uncertain. For these and other reasons, we may choose to settle legal proceedings and claims, regardless of their actual merit. If a legal proceeding is resolved against us, it could result in significant compensatory damages, and in certain circumstances punitive or trebled damages, disgorgement of revenue or profits, remedial corporate measures or injunctive relief imposed on us. If our existing insurance does not cover the amount or types of damages awarded, or if other resolution or actions taken as a result of the legal proceeding were to restrain our ability to operate or market our services, our consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows could be materially adversely affected. In addition, legal proceedings, and any adverse resolution thereof, can result in adverse publicity and damage to our reputation, which could adversely impact our business. Additional information regarding certain legal matters in which we are involved can be found in Note 11(e) to AAG’s Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8A and Note 10(e) to American’s Consolidated Financial Statements in Part II, Item 8B.
Our ability to utilize our NOLs and other carryforwards may be limited.
Under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code), a corporation is generally allowed a deduction for net operating losses (NOLs) carried over from prior taxable years. At December 31, 2023, we had approximately $13.7 billion of gross federal NOLs and $4.7 billion of other carryforwards available to reduce future federal taxable income, of which $3.4 billion will expire beginning in 2029 if unused and $15.0 billion can be carried forward indefinitely. We also had approximately $5.5 billion of NOL carryforwards to reduce future state taxable income at December 31, 2023, which will expire in taxable years 2023 through 2043 if unused. Our NOL carryforwards are subject to adjustment on audit by the Internal Revenue Service and the respective state taxing authorities. Additionally, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic factors, certain of the NOL carryforwards may expire before we can generate sufficient taxable income to use them.
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Our ability to use our NOLs and other carryforwards depends on the amount of taxable income generated in future periods. There can be no assurance that an additional valuation allowance on our net deferred tax assets will not be required should our financial performance be negatively impacted in the future. Such valuation allowance could be material.
A corporation’s ability to deduct its federal NOL carryforwards and to utilize certain other available tax attributes can be substantially constrained under the general annual limitation rules of Section 382 of the Code (Section 382) if it undergoes an “ownership change” as defined in Section 382 (generally where cumulative stock ownership changes among material stockholders exceed 50% during a rolling three-year period). In 2013, we experienced an ownership change in connection with our emergence from bankruptcy and US Airways Group, Inc. (US Airways Group) experienced an ownership change in connection with the merger of US Airways Group and AMR Corporation (the Merger). The general limitation rules for a debtor in a bankruptcy case are liberalized where the ownership change occurs upon emergence from bankruptcy. We elected to be covered by certain special rules for federal income tax purposes that permitted approximately $9.0 billion (with $3.0 billion of unlimited NOLs still remaining at December 31, 2023) of our federal NOL carryforwards to be utilized without regard to the annual limitation generally imposed by Section 382. If the special rules are determined not to apply, our ability to utilize such federal NOL carryforwards may be subject to limitation. Potential future transactions involving warrants, stock options, common or preferred stock or other equity, may increase the possibility that the Company will experience a future "ownership change" under Section 382. Substantially all of our remaining federal NOL carryforwards attributable to US Airways Group and its subsidiaries are subject to limitation under Section 382 as a result of the Merger; however, our ability to utilize such NOL carryforwards is not anticipated to be effectively constrained as a result of such limitation. Similar limitations may apply for state income tax purposes.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, an ownership change may severely limit or effectively eliminate our ability to utilize our NOL carryforwards and other tax attributes. In connection with the expiration in December 2021 of certain transfer restrictions applicable to substantial shareholders contained in our Certificate of Incorporation, the Board of Directors of AAG adopted a tax benefits preservation plan (the Tax Benefit Preservation Plan) in order to preserve our ability to use our NOLs and certain other tax attributes to reduce potential future income tax obligations. The Tax Benefit Preservation Plan was subsequently ratified by our stockholders at the 2022 Annual Meeting of Stockholders of AAG. The Tax Benefit Preservation Plan is designed to reduce the likelihood that we experience an ownership change by deterring certain acquisitions of AAG common stock. There is no assurance, however, that the deterrent mechanism will be effective, and such acquisitions may still occur. In addition, the Tax Benefit Preservation Plan may adversely affect the marketability of AAG common stock by discouraging existing or potential investors from acquiring AAG common stock or additional shares of AAG common stock, because any non-exempt third party that acquires 4.9% or more of the then-outstanding shares of AAG common stock would suffer substantial dilution of its ownership interest in AAG.
New U.S. tax legislation may adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We are subject to taxation at the federal, state and local levels in the United States. The U.S. government may enact significant changes to the taxation of business entities. For example, on August 16, 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law, introducing, among other changes, a corporate minimum tax on certain corporations and an excise tax on certain stock repurchases by certain corporations. While certain other draft legislation has been proposed, the likelihood of any proposed changes to the tax law being enacted or implemented is unclear, and we are currently unable to predict whether such changes will occur. If any such changes are implemented, we are currently unable to predict the ultimate impact on our business and therefore there can be no assurance our business will not be adversely affected.
We have a significant amount of goodwill, which is assessed for impairment at least annually. In addition, we may never realize the full value of our intangible assets or long-lived assets, causing us to record material impairment charges.
Goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets are not amortized, but are assessed for impairment at least annually, or more frequently if conditions indicate that an impairment may have occurred. In accordance with applicable accounting standards, we first assess qualitative factors to determine whether it is necessary to perform a quantitative impairment test. In addition, we are required to assess certain of our other long-lived assets for impairment if conditions indicate that an impairment may have occurred.
Future impairment of goodwill, intangible assets or other long-lived assets could be recorded in results of operations as a result of changes in assumptions, estimates, or circumstances, some of which are beyond our control. There can be no assurance that a material impairment charge of goodwill or tangible or intangible assets will be avoided. The value of our aircraft could be impacted in future periods by changes in supply and demand for these aircraft. Such changes in supply
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and demand for certain aircraft types could result from grounding of aircraft by us or other airlines, including as a result of significant or prolonged declines in demand for air travel and corresponding reductions to capacity. We can provide no assurance that a material impairment loss of tangible or intangible assets will not occur in a future period; we have previously incurred significant impairment charges associated with our decision to retire certain aircraft as a result of the severe decline in demand for air travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the risk of future material impairments remains uncertain. Such impairment charges could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
The commercial relationships that we have with other companies, including any related equity investments, may not produce the returns or results we expect.
An important part of our strategy to expand our network has been to initiate or expand our commercial relationships with other airlines, such as by entering into global alliance, joint business and codeshare relationships, and, in certain instances, including China Southern Airlines, GOL and JetSMART, by making an equity investment in another airline in connection with initiating or expanding such a commercial relationship. We may explore additional investments in, and joint ventures and strategic alliances with, other carriers as part of our global business strategy. We face competition in forming and maintaining these commercial relationships since there are a limited number of potential arrangements and other airlines are looking to enter into similar relationships, and our inability to form or maintain these relationships, or inability to form as many of these relationships as our competitors, may have an adverse effect on our business. Any such existing or future investment could involve significant challenges and risks, including that we may not realize a satisfactory return on our investment, if any, or that they may not generate the expected revenue synergies, and they may distract management focus from our operations or other strategic options. We may also be subject to consequences from any illegal conduct of joint business partners as well as to any political or regulatory change that negatively impacts or prohibits our arrangements with any such business partners. In addition, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recovery, the industry experienced significant volatility in demand for air travel both internationally and domestically, which is expected to continue into the foreseeable future and could materially disrupt our partners' abilities to provide air service, the timely execution of our strategic operating plans, including the finalization, approval and implementation of new strategic relationships or the maintenance or expansion of existing relationships. If any carriers with which we partner or in which we hold an equity stake were to cease trading or be declared insolvent, we could lose the value of any such investment or experience significant operational disruption, which is a risk that we are subject to with respect to our investment in and commercial arrangements with GOL in light of its commencement in January 2024 of bankruptcy proceedings in the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. These events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may also from time to time pursue commercial relationships with companies outside the airline industry, which relationships may include equity investments or other financial commitments. Any such relationship or related investment could involve unique risks, particularly where these relationships involve new industry participants, emerging technologies or industries with which we are unfamiliar.
Our business is very dependent on the price and availability of aircraft fuel. Continued periods of high volatility in fuel costs, increased fuel prices or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a significant negative impact on consumer demand, our operating results and liquidity.
Our operating results are materially impacted by changes in the availability, price volatility and cost of aircraft fuel, which represents one of the largest single cost items in our business and thus is a significant factor in the price of airline tickets. Market prices for aircraft fuel have fluctuated substantially over the past several years and prices continue to be highly volatile, with market spot prices ranging from a low of approximately $1.32 per gallon to a high of approximately $4.40 per gallon during the period from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023. Aircraft fuel prices reflect not only the price of underlying crude oil, but also the price charged to refine crude oil into aircraft fuel (often referred to as the “crack spread”), transportation costs, handling costs and taxes, and increases in any of these underlying components would increase the price we ultimately pay for aircraft fuel.
Because of the amount of fuel needed to operate our business, even a relatively small increase or decrease in the price of fuel can have a material effect on our operating results and liquidity. Due to the competitive nature of the airline industry and unpredictability of the market for air travel, we can offer no assurance that we may be able to increase our fares, impose fuel surcharges or otherwise increase revenues or decrease other operating costs sufficiently to offset fuel price increases. Similarly, we cannot predict actions that may be taken by our competitors in response to changes in fuel prices.
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We cannot predict the future availability, price volatility or cost of aircraft fuel. Natural disasters (including hurricanes or similar events in the U.S. Southeast and on the Gulf Coast where a significant portion of domestic refining capacity is located), political disruptions or armed conflicts involving oil-producing countries or impacting global trade routes, changes in production levels of individual nations or associations of oil-producing states, economic sanctions imposed against oil-producing countries or specific industry participants, changes in fuel-related governmental policy, the strength of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies, changes in the cost to transport or store petroleum products and any related staffing or transportation equipment shortages, changes in access to petroleum product pipelines and terminals, speculation in the energy futures markets, changes in aircraft fuel production capacity, environmental concerns and other unpredictable events, may result in fuel supply shortages, variations in the applicable crack spread, distribution challenges, additional fuel price volatility and cost increases in the future. Any of these factors or events could cause a disruption in or increased demands on oil production, refinery operations, pipeline capacity or terminal access and possibly result in significant increases in the price of aircraft fuel and diminished availability of aircraft fuel supply.
Our aviation fuel purchase contracts generally do not provide meaningful price protection against increases in fuel costs. Our current policy is not to enter into transactions to hedge our fuel consumption, although we review this policy from time to time based on market conditions and other factors. Accordingly, as of December 31, 2023, we did not have any fuel hedging contracts outstanding to hedge our fuel consumption. As such, and assuming we do not enter into any future transactions to hedge our fuel consumption, we will continue to be fully exposed to fluctuations in fuel prices. See also the discussion in Part II, Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk – “Aircraft Fuel.”
In addition, as part of our emissions reduction targets, we and other airlines have committed to increasing the use of SAF in our fleet. Currently, industrial production of SAF is small in scale and inadequate to meet growing industry demand, and while additional production capacity is expected to become operational in the coming years, we anticipate that competition for SAF among industry participants will remain intense. As a result, SAF may be significantly more costly than conventional jet fuel. To secure future SAF supply, we have entered into multiple agreements for the purchase of future SAF production, and we continue to engage with producers regarding potential future SAF purchases, which may include investments and other commitments to support these producers. Certain existing or potential future agreements pertain to SAF production from facilities that are planned but not yet financed, and which may utilize technology that has not been proven at commercial scale. There is no assurance that these facilities will be built or that they will meet contracted production timelines and volumes. In the event that the SAF is not delivered on schedule or in sufficient volumes, there can be no assurance that we will be able to source a supply of SAF sufficient to meet our stated goals, or that we will be able to do so on favorable economic terms.
Our business is subject to extensive government regulation, which may result in increases in our costs, disruptions to our operations, limits on our operating flexibility, reductions in the demand for air travel, and competitive disadvantages.
Airlines are subject to extensive domestic and international regulatory requirements. In the last several years, Congress and state and local governments have passed laws and regulatory initiatives, and the DOT, the FAA, the TSA and several of their respective international counterparts have issued regulations and a number of other directives that affect the airline industry. These requirements impose substantial costs on us and restrict the ways we may conduct our business.
For example, the FAA from time to time issues directives and other regulations relating to the maintenance and operation of aircraft that require significant expenditures or operational restrictions. These requirements can be issued with little or no notice, or can otherwise impact our ability to efficiently or fully utilize our aircraft, and in some instances have resulted in the temporary and prolonged grounding of aircraft or engine types altogether including, for example, the March 2019 grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX Family aircraft, which was not lifted in the United States until November 2020, the January 2024 grounding of 737-9 MAX aircraft (a model that we do not operate), and the significant limitations imposed on the use of Pratt & Whitney GTF aircraft engines on certain Airbus aircraft (an engine that we do not use in our fleet), or otherwise caused substantial disruption and resulted in material costs to us and lost revenues. The recent telecom industry roll-out of 5G technology, and concerns regarding its possible interference with aircraft navigation systems, also resulted in regulatory uncertainty and the potential for operational impacts, including possible suspension of service to certain airports or the operation of certain aircraft, though the issue has since been resolved. See “We rely heavily on technology and automated systems to operate our business, and any failure of these technologies or systems could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.” The FAA also exercises comprehensive regulatory authority over nearly all technical aspects of our operations. Our failure to comply with such requirements has in the past and may in the future result in fines and other enforcement actions by the FAA or other regulators. In the future, any new
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regulatory requirements, particularly requirements that limit our ability to operate or price our products, could have a material adverse effect on us and the industry.
In 2018, Congress passed a five-year funding authorization for the FAA which was scheduled to expire on September 30, 2023, but was recently extended to March 8, 2024. The legislative process to renew this authorization (the FAA Authorization Renewal) could impact us, and commercial aviation more generally, in numerous ways. As part of the FAA Authorization Renewal, Congress could seek to impose new rules or regulations concerning, among other things, customer service, aviation safety, labor requirements, investments in FAA staffing and resources, improvements to the ATC system and managing new entrants in the U.S. national airspace system, as well as new or increased fees or taxes intended to fund these policies. Any new or enhanced requirements resulting from the FAA Authorization Renewal have the potential to increase our costs or impact our operation. Congressional action on the FAA Authorization Renewal has already begun and Congress has indicated that their goal is to pass the bill in advance of the newly set March 8, 2024 expiration. If Congress fails to pass the FAA Authorization Renewal, we expect passage of an additional extension of the current law to prevent a lapse in authorities.
DOT consumer rules, and rules promulgated by certain analogous agencies in other countries we serve, dictate procedures for many aspects of our customer’s journey, including at the time of ticket purchase, at the airport and onboard the aircraft. DOT requires multiple disclosures of airline fares, taxes and baggage fees and is further changing these requirements to increase the number of disclosures and the time at which they must be disclosed. DOT also recently issued a proposed rule mandating refunds in certain circumstances, such as a global pandemic. DOT has also proposed rules requiring disclosure of certain ancillary fees by air carriers and travel agents. Finally, the DOT finalized rules in 2023 for accessible lavatories on single-aisle aircraft and has continued to work through proposals for a number of disability regulations that will impact us, including penalties for wheelchair loss or damage and prompt wheelchair assistance.
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act mandates the federalization of certain airport security procedures and imposes additional security requirements on airports and airlines, most of which are funded by a per-ticket tax on passengers and a tax on airlines. Present and potential future security requirements can have the effect of imposing costs and inconvenience on travelers, potentially reducing the demand for air travel.
Similarly, there are a number of legislative and regulatory initiatives and reforms at the state and local levels in the U.S. These initiatives include increasingly stringent laws to protect the environment, wage/hour requirements, mandatory paid sick or family leave and healthcare mandates. These laws could affect our relationship with our workforce and the vendors that serve our airline and cause our expenses to increase without an ability to pass through these costs. In recent years, the airline industry has experienced an increase in litigation over the application of state and local employment laws, particularly in California. Application of these laws may result in operational disruption, increased litigation risk and impact our negotiated labor agreements. For example, we are currently involved in legal proceedings in California concerning alleged violations of the state’s labor code including, among other things, violations of certain meal and rest break laws, and an adverse determination in any of these cases could adversely impact our operational flexibility and result in the imposition of damages and fines, which could potentially be significant. We have reached an agreement to settle a class litigation brought by flight attendants in California and anticipate final approval by the court in the first quarter of 2024. In addition, legislation passed by the California legislature in March 2023 should effectively foreclose future meal and rest break claims from flight attendants in California. However, there is still risk of future litigation from flight attendants and other work groups involving other types of wage and hour laws in California and other jurisdictions which could seek to implement similar laws.
The results of our operations, demand for air travel and the manner in which we conduct business each may be affected by changes in law and future actions taken by governmental agencies, including:
changes in law that affect the services that can be offered by airlines in particular markets and at particular airports, or the types of fares offered or fees that can be charged to passengers;
the granting and timing of certain governmental approvals (including antitrust or foreign government approvals) needed for codesharing alliances, joint businesses and other arrangements with other airlines, and the imposition of regulatory investigations or commencement of litigation related to any of the foregoing;
restrictions on competitive practices (for example, court orders, or agency regulations or orders, that would curtail an airline’s ability to respond to a competitor);
the adoption of new passenger security standards or regulations that impact customer service standards;
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restrictions on airport operations, such as restrictions on the use of slots at airports or the auction or reallocation of slot rights currently held by us;
the adoption of more restrictive locally-imposed noise restrictions; and
restrictions on travel or special guidelines regarding aircraft occupancy or hygiene in response to outbreaks of illness, such as occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the imposition of preflight testing regimes or vaccination confirmation requirements which have in the past and may in the future have the effect of reducing demand for air travel in the markets where such requirements are imposed.
Each additional regulation or other form of regulatory oversight increases costs and adds greater complexity to airline operations and, in some cases, may reduce the demand for air travel. There can be no assurance that the increased costs or greater complexity associated with our compliance with new rules, anticipated rules or other forms of regulatory oversight will not have a material adverse effect on us.
Any significant reduction in air traffic capacity at and in the airspace serving key airports in the U.S. or overseas could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, the ATC system is not successfully modernizing to meet the growing demand for U.S. air travel. Air traffic controllers rely on outdated procedures and technologies that routinely compel airlines, including ourselves, to fly inefficient routes or take significant delays on the ground. The ATC system’s inability to manage existing travel demand, including due to significant staffing shortages, has led government agencies to implement short-term capacity constraints during peak travel periods or adverse weather conditions in certain markets, resulting in delays and disruptions of air traffic. The outdated technologies also cause the ATC system to be less resilient in the event of a failure, and past system disruptions have resulted in large-scale flight cancellations and delays. We experienced this challenge in January 2023 when an outage in the ATC Notice to Air Missions system led to a nationwide ground-stop for nearly two hours, resulting in significant operational disruption throughout the day.
In the early 2000s, the FAA embarked on a path to modernize the national airspace system, including migration from the current radar-based ATC system to a GPS-based system. This modernization of the ATC system, generally referred to as “NextGen,” has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, and it remains uncertain when the full array of benefits expected from this modernization will be available to the public and the airlines, including ourselves. Failure to update the ATC system and the substantial costs that may be imposed on airlines, including ourselves, to fund a modernized ATC system may have a material adverse effect on our business.
Further, our business has been adversely impacted when government agencies have ceased to operate as expected, including due to partial shutdowns, sequestrations or similar events and the COVID-19 pandemic. These events have resulted in, among other things, reduced demand for air travel, an actual or perceived reduction in air traffic control and security screening resources and related travel delays, as well as disruption in the ability of the FAA to grant required regulatory approvals, such as those that are involved when a new aircraft is first placed into service.
Our operating authority in international markets is subject to aviation agreements between the U.S. and the respective countries or governmental authorities, such as the EU, and in some cases, fares and schedules require the approval of the DOT and/or the relevant foreign governments. Moreover, alliances with international carriers may be subject to the jurisdiction and regulations of various foreign agencies. The U.S. government has negotiated “open skies” agreements with more than 130 trading partners, which agreements allow unrestricted route authority access between the U.S. and the foreign markets. While the U.S. has worked to increase the number of countries with which open skies agreements are in effect, a number of markets important to us, including China, do not have open skies agreements. For example, the open skies air services agreement between the U.S. and the EU, which took effect in March 2008, provides airlines from the U.S. and EU member states open access to each other’s markets, with freedom of pricing and unlimited rights to fly from the U.S. to any airport in the EU. As a result of the agreement and a subsequent open skies agreement involving the U.S. and the United Kingdom, which was agreed in anticipation of Brexit, we face increased competition in these markets, including LHR. Bilateral and multilateral agreements among the U.S. and various foreign governments of countries we serve but which are not covered by an open skies treaty are subject to periodic renegotiation. We currently operate a number of international routes under government arrangements that limit the number of airlines permitted to operate on the route, the capacity of the airlines providing services on the route, or the number of airlines allowed access to particular airports. If an open skies policy were to be adopted for any of these markets, it could adversely impact us and could result in impairments of our related tangible and intangible assets. In addition, competition from foreign airlines, revenue-sharing
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joint ventures, joint business agreements, and other alliance arrangements by and among other airlines could impair the value of our business and assets on the open skies routes.
On May 1, 2021 the EU and United Kingdom entered into a new trade and cooperation agreement (the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement) to govern certain aspects of their relationship following Brexit. We face risks associated with Brexit, notably given the extent of our passenger and cargo traffic and that of our joint business partners that flows through LHR in the United Kingdom. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement includes provisions in relation to commercial air service that we expect to be sufficient to sustain our current services under the transatlantic joint business. However, the scope of traffic rights under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is less extensive than before Brexit and therefore the full impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is uncertain. For example, on December 4, 2023, the United Kingdom government launched a consultation on the reform of the rules applicable to airport slots in the United Kingdom. At this stage, the impact of this consultation and any consequent changes to the United Kingdom slot rules on our operations or those of our joint business partners at LHR is uncertain, but could be material. As a result, the continuation of our current services, and those of our partners could be disrupted. This could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. More generally, changes in U.S. or foreign government aviation policies could result in the alteration or termination of such agreements, diminish the value of route authorities, slots or other assets located abroad, or otherwise adversely affect our international operations.
We operate a global business with international operations that are subject to economic and political instability and have been, and in the future may continue to be, adversely affected by numerous events, circumstances or government actions beyond our control.
We operate a global business with significant operations outside of the U.S. Our current international activities and prospects have been, and in the future could be, adversely affected by government policies, reversals or delays in the opening of foreign markets, increased competition in international markets, the performance of our alliance, joint business and codeshare partners in a given market, exchange controls or other restrictions on repatriation of funds, currency and political risks (including changes in exchange rates and currency devaluations), environmental regulation, increases in taxes and fees and changes in international governmental regulation of our operations, including the inability to obtain or retain needed route authorities and/or slots, and new or evolved policies related to consumer protections. In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the demand for international travel for a prolonged period, and resulted in the imposition of significant governmental restrictions on commercial air service to or from certain regions. We responded by temporarily suspending a significant portion of our long-haul international flights and delaying the introduction of certain new long-haul international routes. While many countries have largely eliminated their pandemic restrictions, we can provide no assurance as to when demand for international travel will return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels in certain markets, if at all, or whether certain international destinations we previously served will be economical in the future.
We are subject to varying registration requirements and ongoing reporting obligations in the countries where we operate. Our permission to continue doing business in these countries may depend on our ability to timely fulfil or remedy any noncompliance with these and other governmental requirements. We may also be subject to the risk that relevant government agencies will be delayed in granting or renewing required approvals, including as a result of shutdowns (such as occurred in certain jurisdictions during the COVID-19 pandemic), cybersecurity incidents or other events. Any lapse, revocation, suspension or delay in approval of our authority to do business in a given jurisdiction may prevent us from serving certain destinations and could adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
More generally, our industry may be affected by any deterioration in global trade relations, including shifts in the trade policies of individual nations. For example, much of the demand for international air travel is the result of business travel in support of global trade. Should protectionist governmental policies, such as increased tariff or other trade barriers, travel limitations and other regulatory actions, have the effect of reducing global commercial activity, the result could be a material decrease in the demand for international air travel. Additionally, certain of the products and services that we purchase, including certain of our aircraft and related parts, are sourced from suppliers located outside the U.S., and the imposition of new tariffs, or any increase in existing tariffs, by the U.S. government in respect of the importation of such products could materially increase the amounts we pay for them.
We face risks associated with Brexit, notably given the extent of our passenger and cargo traffic and that of our joint business partners that flows through LHR in the United Kingdom. The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement includes provisions in relation to commercial air service that we expect to be sufficient to sustain our current services under the transatlantic joint business. However, the scope of traffic rights under the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is less extensive than before Brexit and therefore the full impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is uncertain. As a result, the continuation of our current services, and those of our partners could be disrupted. Moreover,
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Brexit has created uncertainty as to the future trade relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, including air traffic services. LHR is presently a very important element of our international network, however it may become less desirable as a destination or as a hub location after Brexit when compared to other airports in Europe, where we do not have as strong a presence. This could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Brexit has also led to legal and regulatory uncertainty such as new regulatory action and/or potentially divergent treaties, laws and regulations as the United Kingdom determines which EU treaties, laws and regulations to replace or replicate, including those governing aviation, labor, environmental, data protection/privacy, competition and other matters applicable to the provision of air transportation services by us or our alliance, joint business or codeshare partners. The impact on our business of any treaties, laws and regulations that replace the existing EU counterparts, or other governmental or regulatory actions taken by the United Kingdom or the EU in connection with or subsequent to Brexit, cannot be predicted, including whether or not regulators will continue to approve or impose material conditions on our business activities such as the transatlantic joint business. See also “The airline industry is intensely competitive and dynamic.” Any of these effects, and others we cannot anticipate, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Additionally, fluctuations in foreign currencies, including devaluations, exchange controls and other restrictions on the repatriation of funds, have significantly affected and may continue to significantly affect our operating performance, liquidity and the value of any cash held outside the U.S. in local currency. Such fluctuations in foreign currencies, including devaluations, cannot be predicted by us and can significantly affect the value of our assets located outside the United States. These conditions, as well as any further delays, devaluations or imposition of more stringent repatriation restrictions, may materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may be adversely affected by conflicts overseas, terrorist attacks or other acts of violence, domestically or abroad; the travel industry continues to face ongoing security concerns.
Acts of terrorism and other violence, domestically or abroad, or fear of such attacks, including elevated national threat warnings, wars or other military conflicts, may depress air travel, particularly on international routes, and cause declines in revenues and increases in costs. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and continuing terrorist threats, attacks and attempted attacks materially impacted and continue to impact air travel. Increased security procedures introduced at airports since the attacks of September 11, 2001 and any other such measures that may be introduced in the future generate higher operating costs for airlines. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act mandated improved flight deck security, deployment of federal air marshals on-board flights, improved airport perimeter access security, airline crew security training, enhanced security screening of passengers, baggage, cargo, mail, employees and vendors, enhanced training and qualifications of security screening personnel, additional provision of passenger data to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and enhanced background checks. A concurrent increase in airport security charges and procedures, such as restrictions on carry-on baggage, has also had and may continue to have a disproportionate impact on short-haul travel, which constitutes a significant portion of our flying and revenue. Implementation of and compliance with increasingly complex security and customs requirements will continue to result in increased costs for us and our passengers, and have caused and likely will continue to cause periodic service disruptions and delays. We have at times found it necessary or desirable to make significant expenditures to comply with security-related requirements while seeking to reduce their impact on our customers, such as expenditures for automated security screening lines at airports. As a result of competitive pressure, and the need to improve security screening throughput to support the pace of our operations, it is unlikely that we will be able to capture all security-related costs through increased fares. We cannot forecast what new security requirements may be imposed in the future, or their impact on our business. In addition, avoiding areas of armed conflict or locations inaccessible to us due to geopolitical factors can impact our operations and financial results. For instance, airspace closures or restrictions may require us to alter flight paths, thereby increasing the distance, duration and amount of fuel required to operate certain international flights, in particular relative to competitors not subject to these airspace restrictions. Armed conflicts in or affecting international markets we serve could also adversely impact our business by, among other things, depressing demand for travel to certain regions or requiring us to suspend air service to certain destinations. For example, in October 2023, we suspended our service to Tel Aviv, Israel, and cannot predict when, or if, we will be in a position to restore such service. The outbreak or spread of armed conflict could force us to make additional reductions or changes to our service and could result in volatility in oil markets and disruptions to global trade, which could materially increase our costs or impact our supply chains.
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We are subject to risks associated with climate change, including increased regulation of our GHG emissions, changing consumer preferences and the potential for increased impacts of severe weather events on our operations and infrastructure.
Efforts to combat climate change have increased the focus by regulators worldwide on the need to reduce GHG emissions, including those from the airline industry. Concerns over GHG emissions are likely to result in continued attempts to adopt requirements or change business environments related to aviation that, if successful, may result in increased costs to the airline industry and us. In addition, several countries and U.S. states have adopted or are considering adopting programs, including potentially new taxes, to regulate GHG emissions. In addition, certain airports have proposed, and could in the future adopt, GHG emission or climate-related goals or measures that could impact our operations or require us to make changes or investments in our infrastructure. In particular, ICAO has adopted rules, including those pertaining to CORSIA, which will require us to mitigate the growth of GHG emissions associated with a significant majority of our international flights.
At this time, the costs of complying with our future obligations under CORSIA are uncertain, primarily due to significant uncertainty with respect to the future growth of covered GHG emissions, the supply and price of eligible carbon credits and the future development of the market for eligible renewable fuels. Due to the competitive nature of the airline industry and unpredictability of the market for air travel, we can offer no assurance that we may be able to increase our fares, impose surcharges or otherwise increase revenues or decrease other operating costs sufficiently to offset the costs of meeting our obligations under CORSIA.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the applicability of CORSIA to our operations in the long-term, along with the recent implementation of and potential for other new regulatory initiatives to reduce airline GHG emissions, we and other airlines are increasingly subject to an unpredictable and inconsistent array of national or regional emissions restrictions, creating a patchwork of complex regulatory requirements that could lead to increased expenses related to the emissions of our flights. For more information on these regulatory developments, see “Aircraft Emissions and Climate Change Requirements” under Part I, Item 1. Business – “Domestic and Global Regulatory Landscape – Environmental Matters.
In addition, as part of our emissions reduction targets, we and other airlines have committed to increasing the use of SAF in our fleet. Currently, industrial production of SAF is small in scale and inadequate to meet growing industry demand, and while additional production capacity is expected to become operational in the coming years, we anticipate that competition for SAF among industry participants will remain intense. As a result, SAF may be significantly more costly than conventional jet fuel. To secure future SAF supply, we have entered into multiple agreements for the purchase of future SAF production, and we continue to engage with producers regarding potential future SAF purchases, which may include investments and other commitments to support these producers. Certain existing or potential future agreements pertain to SAF production from facilities that are planned but not yet financed, and which may utilize technology that has not been proven at commercial scale. There is no assurance that these facilities will be built or that they will meet contracted production timelines and volumes. In the event that the SAF is not delivered on schedule or in sufficient volumes, there can be no assurance that we will be able to source a supply of SAF sufficient to meet our stated goals, or that we will be able to do so on favorable economic terms.
Additionally, growing recognition among consumers of the dangers of climate change may mean some customers choose to fly less frequently or fly on an airline they perceive as operating in a manner that is more sustainable to the climate. Business customers may choose to use alternatives to travel, such as virtual meetings and workspaces. Greater development of high-speed rail in markets now served by short-haul flights could provide passengers with lower-carbon alternatives to flying with us. Customers may also elect to travel on flights that produce comparatively fewer GHG emissions, particularly after commencement of the EU environmental labelling scheme for flights in 2025. Our collateral to secure loans, in the form of aircraft, spare parts and airport slots, could lose value as customer demand shifts and economies move to low-carbon alternatives, which may increase our financing cost.
We have published a number of sustainability-related targets and goals, including with respect to reducing our GHG emissions. These goals are often long-term in nature, and in many cases rely on assumptions about the future availability and efficacy of technologies that do not yet exist or are not yet commercially viable. Our ability to meet our publicly stated targets is dependent on a number of factors outside our control, including the ability of third parties, such as engine and airframe manufacturers, SAF producers and other industry participants, to timely develop and commercialize these technological solutions. Additionally, we face risks associated with allegations or similar claims that our public statements concerning our sustainability efforts and achievements are exaggerated or unsubstantiated, sometimes referred to as “greenwashing,” and could be subject to litigation or regulatory enforcement actions challenging the basis for such statements which could be costly and disruptive, whether or not meritorious.
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Finally, the potential acute and chronic physical effects of climate change, such as increased frequency and severity of storms, floods, fires, sea-level rise, excessive heat, longer-term changes in weather patterns and other climate-related events, could affect our operations, infrastructure and financial results as well as the safety of our team members. Operational impacts, such as more frequent or widespread flight cancellations, could result in loss of revenue. We could incur significant costs to improve the climate resiliency of our infrastructure and otherwise prepare for, respond to, and mitigate such physical effects of climate change. We are not able to predict accurately the materiality of any potential losses or costs associated with the physical effects of climate change.
We are subject to many forms of environmental and noise regulation and may incur substantial costs as a result.
We are subject to a number of increasingly stringent federal, state, local and foreign laws, regulations and ordinances relating to the protection of human health and the environment and noise reduction, including those relating to emissions to the air, discharges to land and surface and subsurface waters, safe drinking water, and the management of hazardous substances, oils and waste materials. This universe of substances is evolving to encompass many substances not previously regulated. Compliance with environmental laws and regulations can require significant expenditures, and violations can lead to significant fines and penalties, as well as civil liability.
We are also subject to other environmental laws and regulations, including those that require us to investigate and remediate soil or groundwater to meet certain remediation standards. Under federal law, generators of waste materials, and current and former owners or operators of facilities, can be subject to liability for investigation and remediation costs at locations that have been identified as requiring response actions. Liability under these laws may be retroactive, strict, joint and several, meaning that we could be liable for the costs of cleaning up environmental contamination regardless of when it occurred, fault or the amount of waste directly attributable to us. We have liability for investigation and remediation costs at various sites, although such costs currently are not expected to have a material adverse effect on our business.
Governmental authorities in the U.S. and abroad are increasingly focused on potential contamination resulting from the use of certain chemicals, most notably per- and polyfluoroalkyl, substances (PFAS). Products containing PFAS have been used in manufacturing, industrial, and consumer applications over many decades, including those related to aviation. Among other things, recent changes to federal requirements for firefighting foams containing PFAS, as well as related state regulations affecting their use, will require operational changes. In August 2022, the EPA published for public comment a new rulemaking that would designate two PFAS substances (perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. This rulemaking, which is expected to be finalized in early 2024, would require entities to immediately report current and past releases that meet or exceed the reportable quantity for such substances to EPA’s National Response Center. Depending on the final outcome of this rulemaking and the introduction of any additional state or federal regulations, we may incur costs in connection with reporting obligations and costs related to historic usage of PFAS-containing materials, transitioning away from the usage of PFAS-containing products, disposing of PFAS-containing waste or remediating any residual environmental impacts.
We have various leases and agreements with respect to real property, tanks and pipelines with airports and other operators. Under these leases and agreements, we have agreed to indemnify the lessor or operator against environmental liabilities associated with the real property or operations described under the agreement, even in certain cases where we are not the party responsible for the initial event that caused the environmental damage. We also participate in leases with other airlines in fuel consortiums and fuel committees at airports, and such indemnities are generally joint and several among the participating airlines.
Governmental authorities in several U.S. and foreign cities are also considering, or have already implemented, aircraft noise reduction programs, including the imposition of nighttime curfews and limitations on daytime take offs and landings as well as setting an annual flight cap from specific cities. We have been able to accommodate local noise restrictions imposed to date, but our operations could be adversely affected if locally-imposed regulations become more restrictive or widespread. The FAA is also currently evaluating possible changes to how aircraft noise is measured, and the resulting standards that are based on them. Ultimately, these changes could have an impact on, or limit, our operations, or make it more difficult for the FAA to modernize and increase the efficiency of the airspace and airports we utilize.
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A high level of pilot retirements, more stringent duty time regulations, increased flight hour requirements for commercial airline pilots, reductions in the number of military pilots entering the commercial workforce, increased training requirements and other factors have caused a shortage of pilots that could materially adversely affect our business.
Large numbers of pilots in the industry accepted early retirement during the COVID-19 pandemic or are approaching the FAA’s mandatory retirement age of 65. Our pilots and other employees are subject to rigorous certification standards, and our pilots and other crew members must adhere to flight time and rest requirements. Commencing in 2013, the minimum flight hour requirement to achieve a commercial pilot’s license in the United States increased from 250 to 1,500 hours, thereby significantly increasing the time and cost commitment required to become licensed to fly commercial aircraft. Additionally, the number of military pilots being trained by the U.S. armed forces and available as commercial pilots upon their retirement from military service has been decreasing. Further, in the course of the domestic airline industry rapidly restoring capacity during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the significant training requirements to return large numbers of pilots to active flying have been time consuming and disruptive.
These and other factors have contributed to a shortage of qualified, entry-level pilots, shortages of experienced pilots trained and ready for duty, principally at our regional affiliates, and increased compensation costs materially for pilots throughout the industry. We believe that this industry-wide pilot shortage will remain a significant problem for regional airlines in the United States for the foreseeable future. We have recently implemented a number of recruitment initiatives intended to recruit qualified pilots to our regional airlines, including offering significant financial incentives, but we cannot guarantee that such efforts will be successful. Notwithstanding these efforts, our regional airline subsidiaries and other regional partners have recently been unable to hire adequate numbers of pilots to meet their needs, resulting in a reduction in the number of flights offered, operational disruptions, increased compensation expense and costs of operations, financial difficulties and other adverse effects, and these circumstances may become more severe in the future and thereby cause a material adverse effect on our business.
As part of the FAA Authorization Renewal process, Congress has proposed increasing the pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 to help address the pilot shortage. Raising the mandatory retirement age could help to mitigate the pilot shortage at regional airlines and other carriers operating domestically, but it could create potentially significant challenges to mainline carriers operating internationally, as the international standard for pilot retirement is currently 65.
We depend on a limited number of suppliers for aircraft, aircraft engines and parts. Delays in scheduled aircraft deliveries, unexpected grounding of aircraft or aircraft engines whether by regulators or by us, or other loss of anticipated fleet capacity, and failure of new aircraft to receive regulatory approval, be produced or otherwise perform as and when expected, may adversely impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We depend on a limited number of suppliers for aircraft, aircraft engines and many aircraft and engine parts. For example, all of our mainline aircraft were manufactured by either Airbus or Boeing and all of our regional aircraft were manufactured by either Bombardier or Embraer. Further, our supplier base continues to consolidate as evidenced by recent transactions involving Airbus and Bombardier and Mitsubishi and Bombardier, and the cessation of production of certain Bombardier regional aircraft that we and our regional partners currently operate in large numbers. Due to the limited number of suppliers, constraints on production capacity, large order books and long production lead times, manufacturers may face challenges in timely fulfilling our aircraft on order, and we may face competition from other carriers in securing an adequate supply of aircraft in the future. If new aircraft orders are not filled on a timely basis, we could face higher financing and operating costs than planned. The limited number of these suppliers may also result in reduced competition and potentially higher prices than if the supplier base was less concentrated. In addition, we are vulnerable to any problems associated with the performance of these suppliers’ obligation to supply key aircraft, parts and engines, including design defects, mechanical problems, contractual performance by suppliers or adverse perception by the public that would result in customer avoidance of any of our aircraft. If the aircraft we receive do not meet expected performance or quality standards, including with respect to fuel efficiency, safety and reliability, we could also face higher financing and operating costs than planned and our business, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely impacted. We are also subject to the risk that action by the FAA or any other regulatory authority could result in an inability to certify or operate our aircraft, even temporarily. For instance, in March 2019, the FAA ordered the grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX Family aircraft, which remained in place for over a year and was not lifted in the United States until November 2020. An additional grounding of Boeing aircraft occurred in January 2024 involving the Boeing 737-9 MAX, a model that we do not operate. Further, significant limitations imposed on the use of Pratt & Whitney GTF aircraft engines (an engine that we do not use in our fleet) on certain Airbus aircraft have resulted in very significant numbers of the related aircraft being grounded while awaiting refurbished engines. Regulatory concerns raised by the FAA also previously forced
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Boeing to suspend deliveries of certain 787 aircraft, temporarily resulting in significant reductions to our planned long-haul flying. More generally, we have recently experienced delivery delays across manufacturers due to regulatory matters such as those described above, regulatory restrictions on production rate increases (such as those that the FAA has announced it intends to impose on Boeing 737 production), supply chain limitations, development delays, and other factors, which have created significant challenges in planning our fleet, and those challenges are likely to continue. There is also the prospect that new aircraft models will continue to face certification delays further impeding the delivery of new aircraft to the airline industry and increasing competition for the production capacity that is available.
The success of our business depends on, among other things, effectively managing the number and types of aircraft we operate. If, for any reason, we are unable to accept or secure deliveries of new aircraft on contractually scheduled delivery timelines, our business, results of operations and financial condition could be negatively impacted. Our failure to integrate newly purchased aircraft into our fleet as planned might require us to seek extensions of the terms for some leased aircraft or otherwise delay the exit of certain aircraft from our fleet. Such unanticipated extensions or delays, which as noted above have recently been relatively commonplace among manufacturers of commercial aircraft, may require us to operate existing aircraft beyond the point at which it is economically optimal to retire them, resulting in increased maintenance costs, or reductions to our schedule, thereby reducing revenues. Repeated or prolonged delays in the production, delivery or induction of our new aircraft could also require us to scale back our growth plans, reduce frequencies or forgo service entirely to certain markets, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely heavily on technology and automated systems to operate our business, and any failure of these technologies or systems could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We are highly dependent on existing and emerging technology and automated systems to operate our business. These technologies and systems include but may not be limited to our computerized airline reservation system, flight operations and crew scheduling systems, financial planning, management and accounting systems, telecommunications systems, website, maintenance systems and check-in kiosks. In order for our operations to work efficiently, our website and reservation system must be able to accommodate a high volume of traffic, maintain secure information and deliver flight information, as well as issue electronic tickets and process critical financial information in a timely manner. Substantially all of our tickets are issued to passengers as electronic tickets. We depend on our reservation system, which is hosted and maintained under a long-term contract by a third-party service provider, to be able to issue, track and accept these electronic tickets. If our technologies or automated systems are not functioning or if our third-party service providers were to fail to adequately provide technical support, system maintenance or timely software upgrades for any one of our key existing systems, we could experience service disruptions or delays, which could harm our business and result in the loss of important data, increase our expenses and decrease our revenues. Furthermore, certain critical aspects of our operation rely on legacy technological systems which may grow more difficult or expensive to support and maintain over time, and such systems may fail to perform as required or become more vulnerable to malfunction or failure over time. In the event that one or more of our primary technology or systems vendors goes into bankruptcy, ceases operations or fails to perform as promised, replacement services may not be readily available on a timely basis, at competitive rates or at all, and any transition time to a new system may be significant.
Our aircraft employ a number of sophisticated radio and satellite-based navigation and safety technologies, and we are subject to risks associated with the introduction or expansion of technologies that could interfere with the safe operation of these flight systems. For example, telecommunications companies are expanding and increasing the commercial and consumer applications of 5G cellular communication networks, and regulators, manufacturers and operators have expressed concerns that certain 5G applications could interfere with certain flight systems. On December 23, 2021, the FAA issued a special airworthiness information bulletin (SAIB), in which it indicated that further testing and assessment is needed regarding the effects of 5G on certain aircraft equipped with radar altimeters, which measure the aircraft’s altitude and guide pilots during landings. If it were determined that 5G signals posed an interference risk to these altimeters or other systems, the FAA indicated in its SAIB that it could restrict flight operations in areas where such interference could occur. On June 17, 2022, the FAA and the telecommunications industry reached an agreement to delay the full implementation of 5G deployment near airports until July 1, 2023. The delayed implementation allowed the aviation industry time to retrofit the radio altimeters on aircraft to prevent potential interference from 5G signals. American has completed the retrofit of its impacted mainline and regional aircraft, and we now expect operational certainty as it pertains to 5G until 2028, when the current operating agreement between the FAA, Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry expires.
Our technologies and automated systems are not completely protected against events that are beyond our control, including natural disasters, power failures, terrorist attacks, cyberattacks, data theft, defects, errors, equipment and
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software failures, computer viruses or telecommunications failures. When service interruptions occur as a result of any of the aforementioned events, we address them in accordance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. However, substantial or sustained system failures could cause service delays or failures and result in our customers purchasing tickets from other airlines. We cannot assure that our security measures, change control procedures or disaster recovery plans are adequate to prevent disruptions or delays. Disruption in or changes to these technologies or systems could result in a disruption to our business and the loss of important data. Any of the foregoing could result in a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Evolving data privacy requirements (in particular, compliance with applicable federal, state and foreign laws relating to handling of personal information about individuals) could increase our costs, and any significant data privacy incident could disrupt our operations, harm our reputation, expose us to legal risks and otherwise materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In the normal course of our business, we collect, process, use and disclose personal information about individuals and rely on third party service providers to host or otherwise process personal information. Many federal, state and foreign governmental bodies and agencies have adopted, or are considering adopting, laws and regulations that impose limits on the collection, processing, use, disclosure and security of personal information about individuals. In some cases, such laws and regulations can be enforced by private parties in addition to government entities. In addition, privacy advocacy and industry groups may propose new and different self-regulatory standards or guidance that may legally or contractually apply to us and our vendors. These non-uniform laws, regulations, standards and guidance are complex and currently evolving and can be subject to significant change and interpretation, and may be inconsistently applied and enforced from one jurisdiction to another.
Our business requires the secure processing and storage of personal information relating to our customers, employees, business partners and others, and other data such as confidential information. However, like any global enterprise operating in today’s digital business environment, we and our third party service providers have experienced cybersecurity incidents and data breaches. For example, in July 2022, a minor phishing incident resulted in certain employee email accounts being accessed and acquired without authorization that contained personal information about a very limited number of individuals, including travelers (following which we notified the individuals). We react and respond to these cybersecurity incidents in accordance with the applicable legal requirements, our own cybersecurity protocols, as well as our commercial partners’ standards (as appropriate), but we cannot ensure that our responses (or those of our partners and service providers) will be sufficient to prevent or mitigate the potential adverse impacts of these cybersecurity incidents, which may be material.
There has been heightened legislative and regulatory focus on data privacy and cybersecurity in the U.S., EU, U.K., China and elsewhere, particularly with respect to critical infrastructure providers, including those in the transportation sector. As a result, we must comply with a proliferating and fast-evolving set of legal requirements in this area, including substantive data privacy and cybersecurity standards as well as requirements for notifying regulators and affected individuals in the event of a cybersecurity incident. In addition, we are subject to an increasing number of reporting obligations in respect of material cybersecurity incidents. These reporting requirements have been proposed or implemented by a number of regulators in different jurisdictions, may vary in their scope and application, and could contain conflicting requirements. Certain of these rules and regulations may require us to report a cybersecurity incident before we have been able to fully assess its impact or remediate the underlying issue. Efforts to comply with such reporting requirements could divert management’s attention from our cybersecurity incident response and could potentially reveal system vulnerabilities to threat actors. Failure to timely report cybersecurity incidents under these rules could also result in regulatory investigations, litigation, monetary fines, sanctions, or subject us to other forms of liability. Even though we believe we and our third party service providers are generally in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations relating to privacy and data security, the regulatory environment is increasingly challenging as data privacy and cybersecurity laws, rules, regulations, industry standards and other requirements are continually developing. These changing requirements, along with their evolving application, interpretation, and amendment, may present material obligations and risks to our business, including significantly expanded compliance burdens, costs and enforcement risks.
In addition, many of our commercial partners, including credit card companies, have imposed data security standards that we must meet. In particular, we are required by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, founded by the credit card companies, to comply with their highest level of data security standards (the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)). While we and our service providers continue our efforts to meet these standards, new and revised standards may be imposed that may be difficult for us to meet and could increase our costs, and if we are unable to comply with revised standards, we may be subject to fines, restrictions or other liability, which could materially and
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adversely affect our business. Moreover, it is not guaranteed that PCI DSS compliance will prevent illegal or improper use of our payment systems or the theft, loss or misuse of payment card data or transaction information.
Litigation, claims and enforcement related to data privacy, biometrics and other provisions of state privacy laws may involve new interpretations of privacy laws. There has also been a noticeable uptick in class actions in the U.S. wherein plaintiffs have utilized a variety of laws, including state wiretapping laws, in relation to companies’ use of tracking technologies, such as cookies and pixels. Compliance with these laws and regulations may be inconsistent from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, increasing the cost of compliance and our risk of liability from litigation. Any litigation, claims or enforcement actions to which we are or become a party could potentially result in substantial monetary damages or fines, and negative reputational impacts that cause us to lose existing or future customers, which could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We are exposed to risks from cyberattacks, and any cybersecurity incidents involving us, our third-party service providers, or one of our AAdvantage partners or other business partners, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Significant cybersecurity incidents involving us, our third-party service providers, or one of our AAdvantage partners or other business partners, have in the past and may in the future result in a range of potentially material negative consequences for us, including unauthorized access to, disclosure, modification, misuse, loss or destruction of company systems or data; theft of sensitive, regulated or confidential data, such as personal information or our intellectual property; the loss of functionality of critical systems through ransomware, denial of service or other cyberattacks; a diminished ability to retain or attract new customers; a deterioration in our relationships with business partners and other third parties; interruptions or failures in our payment related systems; and business delays, service or system disruptions, damage to equipment and injury to persons or property. The methods used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service or sabotage systems are constantly evolving and may be difficult to anticipate or to detect for long periods of time. The constantly changing nature of the threats means that we cannot and have not been able to prevent all data security breaches or misuse of data, and there is a risk that our security measures will not be fully effective in the future. Similarly, we depend on the ability of our key commercial partners, including AAdvantage partners, other business partners, our regional carriers, distribution partners and technology vendors, to conduct their businesses in a manner that complies with applicable security standards and assures their ability to perform on a timely basis. A security failure, including a failure to meet PCI DSS requirements, breach or other significant cybersecurity incident affecting one of our partners, interruptions or failures in our payment related systems, could result in potentially material negative consequences for us, including loss of critical data, service interruptions, delays in operations, and the potential for fines, restrictions and expulsion from card acceptance programs. In addition, we use third party service providers to help us deliver services to customers. These service providers may store personal information, credit card information and/or other confidential information. Such information has been and will be the target of unauthorized access or subject to security breaches because of third-party action, employee error, malfeasance or otherwise. Any of these could (a) result in the loss of information, litigation, indemnity obligations, expensive and inconsistent cybersecurity incident and data breach notification requirements, damage to our reputation, regulatory scrutiny, and other liability, or (b) have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The threat of cybersecurity incidents continues to increase as the frequency, intensity and sophistication of cyberattacks and intrusions increase around the world. Diverse threat actors, such as state-sponsored organizations, opportunistic hackers and hacktivists, as well as diverse attack vectors such as social engineering/phishing, malware (including ransomware), malfeasance by insiders, human or technological error, denial of service attacks or exploitation of vulnerabilities, threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our and our third party service providers’ information systems, personal information and confidential information. Geopolitical issues also continue to increase our cybersecurity risk and potential for cybersecurity incidents, for example, the conflict involving Russia and Ukraine, which has resulted in a heightened risk of cyberattacks against companies like ours that have operations, vendors and/or supply chain providers located in or around the region of conflict or are otherwise related to the conflict. Despite ongoing efforts to maintain and improve the security of our information systems and digital information, individuals, including employees, contractors, and external threat actors, may be able to circumvent the security measures we put in place, and we may be unable to anticipate new techniques used for these attacks and intrusions and implement adequate preventative measures. We, our business partners and service providers have been the target of cybersecurity attacks in the past and expect that we, our business and service partners, will continue to experience cybersecurity incidents in the future.
The costs and operational consequences of defending against, preparing for, responding to and remediating a cybersecurity incident are substantial. As cybersecurity incidents become more frequent, intense and sophisticated, costs of proactive defense measures are increasing. Further, we could be exposed to litigation, regulatory enforcement or other
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legal action as a result of an incident, carrying the potential for damages, fines, sanctions or other penalties, as well as injunctive relief and enforcement actions requiring costly compliance measures. A significant number of recent data privacy and cybersecurity incidents, including those involving other large airlines, have resulted in very substantial adverse financial consequences to those companies. A cybersecurity incident could also impact our brand, including that of the AAdvantage program, harm our reputation and adversely impact our relationship with our customers, employees and stockholders. The increased regulatory focus on data privacy practices apart from how personal information is secured, such as how personal information is collected, used for marketing purposes, and shared with third parties, also may require changes to our processes and increase compliance costs. There is also an increased risk to our business in the event of a significant cybersecurity or data privacy violation, including additional compliance costs, reputational harm, disruption to the manner in which we provide our services, including the geographies we service, and being subject to complaints and/or regulatory investigations, significant monetary liability, fines, penalties, regulatory enforcement, individual or class action lawsuits, public criticism, loss of customers, loss of goodwill or other additional liabilities, such as claims by industry groups or other third parties. Accordingly, failure to appropriately address data privacy and cybersecurity issues could result in material financial and other liabilities and cause significant reputational harm to our company.
We rely on third-party distribution channels and must effectively manage the costs, rights and functionality of these channels.
While our priority is to migrate an increasing portion of our customers to our modern, direct distribution channels in lieu of third party channels, we continue to rely on third-party distribution channels, including those provided by or through global distribution systems (GDSs) (e.g., Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport), conventional travel agents, travel management companies and online travel agents (OTAs) (e.g., Expedia, including its booking sites Orbitz and Travelocity, and Booking Holdings, including its booking sites Kayak and Priceline), to distribute a significant portion of our airline tickets, and we expect in the future to continue to rely on these channels. We are also dependent upon the ability and willingness of these distribution channels to expand their ability to distribute and collect revenues for ancillary products (e.g., fees for selective seating). These distribution channels are more expensive and at present have less functionality in respect of ancillary product offerings than those we operate ourselves, such as our website at www.aa.com. Certain of these distribution channels also effectively restrict the manner in which we distribute our products generally.
To remain competitive, we will need to manage successfully our distribution costs and rights, increase our distribution flexibility, continue to migrate the distribution of tickets to our proprietary and other modern distribution channels, and improve the functionality of our distribution channels, while maintaining an industry-competitive cost structure and a high level of customer satisfaction. Further, as distribution technology changes we will need to continue to update our technology by acquiring new technology from third parties, building the functionality ourselves, or a combination, which in any event will likely entail significant technological and commercial risk and involve potentially material investments. These imperatives may affect our relationships with conventional travel agents, travel management companies, GDSs and OTAs, including if consolidation of conventional travel agents, travel management companies, GDSs or OTAs continues, or should any of these parties seek to acquire other technology providers thereby potentially limiting our technology alternatives. Any inability to manage our third-party distribution costs, rights and functionality at a competitive level or any material diminishment or disruption in the distribution of our tickets could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If we are unable to obtain and maintain adequate facilities and infrastructure throughout our system and, at some airports, adequate slots, we may be unable to operate our existing flight schedule and to expand or change our route network in the future, which may have a material adverse impact on our operations.
In order to operate our existing and proposed flight schedule and, where desirable, add service along new or existing routes, we must be able to maintain and/or obtain adequate gates, check-in counters, operations areas, operations control facilities and administrative support space. As airports around the world become more congested, it may not be possible for us to ensure that our plans for new service can be implemented in a commercially viable manner, given operating constraints at airports throughout our network, including those imposed by inadequate facilities at desirable airports.
In light of constraints on existing facilities, there is presently a significant amount of capital spending underway at major airports in the United States, including large projects underway at a number of airports where we have significant operations, such as O’Hare International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. More generally, following long periods of underinvestment, there is a trend among airports in the United States to engage in significant, expensive expansion, remodeling and infrastructure improvement projects. This spending is expected to result in increased costs to airlines and the traveling public that use those facilities as the airports seek to
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recover their investments through increased rental, landing and other facility costs. In some circumstances, such costs could be imposed by the relevant airport authority without our approval. Accordingly, our operating costs are expected to increase significantly at many airports at which we operate, including a number of our hubs and gateways, as a result of capital spending projects currently underway and additional projects that we expect to commence over the next several years.
In addition, operations at three major domestic airports, certain smaller domestic airports and many foreign airports we serve are regulated by governmental entities through allocations of slots or similar regulatory mechanisms that limit the rights of carriers to conduct operations at those airports. Each slot represents the authorization to land at or take off from the particular airport during a specified time period and may impose other operational restrictions as well. In the U.S., the DOT and the FAA currently regulate the allocation of slots or slot exemptions at DCA and two New York City airports: JFK and LGA. Our operations at these airports generally require the allocation of slots or similar regulatory authority. In addition to slot restrictions, operations at DCA and LGA are also limited based on a so-called “perimeter rule” which generally limits the stage length of the flights that can be operated from those airports to 1,250 and 1,500 miles, respectively. Similarly, our operations at LHR, international airports in Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo and other airports outside the U.S. are regulated by local slot authorities pursuant to the International Airline Trade Association Worldwide Scheduling Guidelines and/or applicable local law. Termination of slot controls or other operational restrictions at some or all of the foregoing airports could affect our operational performance and competitive position. We currently have sufficient slots or analogous authorizations to operate our existing flights and we have generally, but not always, been able to obtain the rights to expand our operations and to change our schedules. However, there is no assurance that we will be able to obtain sufficient slots or analogous authorizations in the future or as to the cost of acquiring such rights because, among other reasons, such allocations are often sought after by other airlines and are subject to changes in governmental policies. During periods of reduced demand for air travel, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, we may rely on exemptions granted by applicable authorities from the requirement that we continuously use certain slots, gates and routes or risk having such operating rights revoked, and depending on the applicable authority these exemptions can vary in the way they are structured and applied. We cannot predict whether such exemptions will be made available, whether they will be granted on the same or similar terms as in past instances, or whether we ultimately could be at risk of losing valuable operating rights. If we are forced to surrender slots or other rights, we may be unable to provide our desired level of service to or from certain destinations in the future. We cannot provide any assurance that regulatory changes resulting in changes in the application of slot controls or the allocation of or any reallocation of existing slots, the continued enforcement or termination of a perimeter rule or similar regulatory regime will not have a material adverse impact on our operations.
Our ability to provide service can also be impaired at airports where the airport gates and other facilities are currently inadequate to accommodate all of the service that we would like to provide, or where we have no access to gates at all.
Any limitation on our ability to acquire or maintain adequate gates, ticketing facilities, operations areas, operations control facilities, slots (where applicable), or office space could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Interruptions or disruptions in service at one of our key facilities could have a material adverse impact on our operations.
We operate principally through our hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. and partner gateways including London Heathrow (among others). Substantially all of our flights either originate at or fly into one of these locations. A significant interruption or disruption in service at one of our hubs, gateways or other airports where we have a significant presence, resulting from air traffic control delays, weather conditions, natural disasters, growth constraints, performance by third-party service providers (such as electric utility or telecommunications providers), failure of computer systems, disruptions at airport facilities or other key facilities used by us to manage our operations (including as a result of social or environmental activism), labor relations, power supplies, fuel supplies, terrorist activities, or otherwise could result in the cancellation or delay of a significant portion of our flights and, as a result, could have a severe impact on our business, results of operations and financial condition. We have limited control, particularly in the short term, over the operation, quality or maintenance of many of the services on which our operations depend and over whether vendors of such services will improve or continue to provide services that are essential to our business.
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Increases in insurance costs or reductions in insurance coverage may adversely impact our operations and financial results.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to a significant increase in insurance premiums and a decrease in the insurance coverage available to commercial air carriers. Accordingly, our insurance costs increased significantly, and our ability to continue to obtain insurance even at current prices remains uncertain. The occurrence or persistence of certain events, including armed conflicts, could also impact our ability to obtain commercial insurance coverage against certain risks, or to obtain such insurance on commercially acceptable terms. If we are unable to maintain adequate insurance coverage or to secure suitable alternatives outside the commercial insurance markets, our business could be materially and adversely affected. Additionally, severe disruptions in the domestic and global financial markets could adversely impact the claims paying ability of some insurers. Future downgrades in the ratings of enough insurers could adversely impact both the availability of appropriate insurance coverage and its cost. Because of competitive pressures in our industry, our ability to pass along additional insurance costs to passengers is limited. As a result, further increases in insurance costs or reductions in available insurance coverage could have an adverse impact on our financial results.
The airline industry is heavily taxed.
The airline industry is subject to extensive government fees and taxation that negatively impact our revenue and profitability. The U.S. airline industry is one of the most heavily taxed of all industries. These fees and taxes have grown significantly in the past decade for domestic flights, and various U.S. fees and taxes also are assessed on international flights. For example, as permitted by federal legislation, most major U.S. airports impose a per-passenger facility charge on us. In addition, the governments of foreign countries in which we operate impose on U.S. airlines, including us, various fees and taxes, and these assessments have been increasing in number and amount in recent years. Moreover, we are obligated to collect a federal excise tax, commonly referred to as the “ticket tax,” on domestic and international air transportation. We collect the excise tax, along with certain other U.S. and foreign taxes and user fees on air transportation (such as passenger security fees), and pass along the collected amounts to the appropriate governmental agencies. Although these taxes and fees are not our operating expenses, they represent an additional cost to our customers. There are continuing efforts in Congress and in other countries to raise different portions of the various taxes, fees, and charges imposed on airlines and their passengers, including the passenger facility charge, and we may not be able to recover all of these charges from our customers. Increases in such taxes, fees and charges could negatively impact our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Under DOT regulations, all governmental taxes and fees must be included in the prices we quote or advertise to our customers. Due to the competitive revenue environment, many increases in these fees and taxes have been absorbed by the airline industry rather than being passed on to the customer. Further increases in fees and taxes may reduce demand for air travel, and thus our revenues.
Risks Related to Ownership of AAG Common Stock and Convertible Notes
The price of AAG common stock has been and may in the future be volatile.
The market price of AAG common stock has fluctuated substantially in the past, and may fluctuate substantially in the future, due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including:
the effects of external events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on our business or the U.S. and global economies;
macro-economic conditions, including the price of fuel;
changes in market values of airline companies as well as general market conditions;
our operating and financial results failing to meet the expectations of securities analysts or investors;
changes in financial estimates or recommendations by securities analysts;
changes in our level of outstanding indebtedness and other obligations;
changes in our credit ratings;
material announcements by us or our competitors;
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expectations regarding any future capital deployment program, including share repurchase programs and any future dividend payments that may be declared by our Board of Directors, or any subsequent determination to cease repurchasing stock or paying dividends;
new regulatory pronouncements and changes in regulatory guidelines;
general and industry-specific economic conditions;
changes in our key personnel;
inclusion of our common stock in broad market indexes favored by passive investors;
investor preferences to invest in certain sectors, including large technology companies in lieu of industrial or transportation companies;
public or private sales of a substantial number of shares of AAG common stock or issuances of AAG common stock upon the exercise or conversion of restricted stock unit awards, stock appreciation rights, or other securities that may be issued from time to time, including warrants we have issued in connection with our receipt of funds under the CARES Act, the PSP Extension Law and the ARP;
increases or decreases in reported holdings by insiders or other significant stockholders;
fluctuations in trading volume; and
technical factors in the public trading market for our stock that may produce price movements that may or may not comport with macro, industry or company-specific fundamentals, including, without limitation, the sentiment of retail investors (including as may be expressed on financial trading and other social media sites), the amount and status of short interest in our securities, access to margin debt, trading in options and other derivatives on our common stock and any related hedging and other technical trading factors.
The closing price of our common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market varied from $10.92 to $18.80 during 2023 and $12.93 to $15.36 during 2024 year-to-date through February 16, 2024. At times, fluctuations in our stock price have been rapid, imposing risks on investors due to the possibility of significant, short-term price volatility. While we believe that in recent years this wide range of trading prices has largely reflected the changing prospects for a large airline facing the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we also believe, based in part on the commentary of market analysts, that the trading price of our common stock has at times been influenced by the technical trading factors discussed in the last bullet above. On some occasions, market analysts have explained fluctuations in our stock price by reference to purported “short squeeze” activity. A “short squeeze” is a technical market condition that occurs when the price of a stock increases substantially, forcing market participants who had taken a position that its price would fall (i.e., who had sold the stock “short”), to buy it, which in turn may create significant, short-term demand for the stock not for fundamental reasons, but rather due to the need for such market participants to acquire the stock in order to forestall the risk of even greater losses. A “short squeeze” condition in the market for a stock can lead to short-term conditions involving very high volatility and trading that may or may not track fundamental valuation models.
If we decide to make repurchases of or pay dividends on our common stock, we cannot guarantee that we will continue to do so or that such a capital deployment program will enhance long-term stockholder value.
If we determine to make any share repurchases in the future, such repurchases may be made through a variety of methods, which may include open market purchases, privately negotiated transactions, block trades or accelerated share repurchase transactions. Our future repurchases of AAG common stock, if any, may be limited, suspended or discontinued at any time at our discretion and without prior notice.
If we determine to make any dividends in the future, such dividends that may be declared and paid from time to time will be subject to market and economic conditions, applicable legal requirements and other relevant factors. The amount and timing of any future dividends, if any, may vary, and the payment of any dividend does not assure that we will pay dividends in the future.
In addition, any future repurchases of AAG common stock or payment of dividends, or any determination to cease repurchasing stock or paying dividends, could affect our stock price and increase its volatility. The existence of a future share repurchase program and any future dividends could cause our stock price to be higher than it would otherwise be and could potentially reduce the market liquidity for our stock. Additionally, any future repurchases of AAG common stock
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or payment of dividends will diminish our cash reserves, which may impact our ability to finance future growth and to pursue possible future strategic opportunities and acquisitions. Further, our repurchase of AAG common stock may fluctuate such that our cash flow may be insufficient to fully cover our share repurchases. Under the recently enacted IRA, we may become subject to an excise tax on the fair market value of AAG common stock repurchased after December 31, 2022, which may adversely affect our financial condition. Although our share repurchase programs are intended to enhance long-term stockholder value, there is no assurance that they will do so.
AAG’s Certificate of Incorporation, Bylaws and Tax Benefit Preservation Plan include provisions that limit voting and acquisition and disposition of our equity interests and specify an exclusive forum for certain stockholder disputes.
Our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws include significant provisions that limit voting and ownership and disposition of our equity interests as described in Part II, Item 5. Market for American Airlines Group’s Common Stock, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities - “Ownership Restrictions” and AAG’s Description of the Registrants’ Securities Registered Pursuant to Section 12 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which is filed as Exhibit 4.1 hereto. Further restrictions are set forth in our Tax Benefit Preservation Plan, which was filed as Exhibit 4.1 to AAG’s Current Report on Form 8-K filed on December 22, 2021. These restrictions may adversely affect the ability of certain holders of AAG common stock and our other equity interests to vote such interests and adversely affect the ability of persons to acquire shares of AAG common stock and our other equity interests.
Our Certificate of Incorporation also specifies that the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware shall be the exclusive forum for substantially all disputes between us and our stockholders. Because the applicability of the exclusive forum provision is limited to the extent permitted by applicable law, we do not intend for the exclusive forum provision to apply to suits brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Exchange Act or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction, and acknowledge that federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over all suits brought to enforce any duty or liability created by the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act). We note that there is uncertainty as to whether a court would enforce the provision as it applies to the Securities Act and that investors cannot waive compliance with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder. This provision may have the effect of discouraging lawsuits against our directors and officers.
Certain provisions of AAG’s Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws make it difficult for stockholders to change the composition of our Board of Directors and may discourage takeover attempts that some of our stockholders might consider beneficial.
Certain provisions of our Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws, as currently in effect, may have the effect of delaying or preventing changes in control if our Board of Directors determines that such changes in control are not in our best interest and the best interest of our stockholders. These provisions include, among other things, the following:
advance notice procedures for stockholder proposals to be considered at stockholders’ meetings;
the ability of our Board of Directors to fill vacancies on the board;
a prohibition against stockholders taking action by written consent;
stockholders are restricted from calling a special meeting unless they hold at least 20% of our outstanding shares and follow the procedures provided for in the amended Bylaws;
a requirement that holders of at least 80% of the voting power of the shares entitled to vote in the election of directors approve any amendment of our Bylaws submitted to stockholders for approval; and
super-majority voting requirements to modify or amend specified provisions of our Certificate of Incorporation.
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These provisions are not intended to prevent a takeover, but are intended to protect and maximize the value of the interests of our stockholders. While these provisions have the effect of encouraging persons seeking to acquire control of our company to negotiate with our Board of Directors, they could enable our Board of Directors to prevent a transaction that some, or a majority, of our stockholders might believe to be in their best interest and, in that case, may prevent or discourage attempts to remove and replace incumbent directors. In addition, we are subject to the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which prohibits business combinations with interested stockholders. Interested stockholders do not include stockholders whose acquisition of our securities is approved by the Board of Directors prior to the investment under Section 203.
The issuance or sale of shares of our common stock, rights to acquire shares of our common stock, or warrants issued to the U.S. Department of Treasury under the CARES Act, the PSP Extension Law, the ARP, PSP1, PSP2 and PSP3, could depress the trading price of our common stock and the Convertible Notes.
We may conduct future offerings of material amounts of our common stock, preferred stock or other securities that are convertible into or exercisable for our common stock to finance our operations, to fund acquisitions, or for any other purposes at any time and from time to time (including as compensation to the U.S. Government for the proceeds received pursuant to the payroll support program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (PSP1), the payroll support program established under the Subtitle A of Title IV of Division N of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (PSP Extension Law) (PSP2) and the payroll support program established under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) (PSP3)). If these additional shares or securities are issued or sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, into the public market or otherwise, the trading price of our common stock and the 6.50% convertible senior notes due 2025 (the Convertible Notes) could decline substantially. If we issue additional shares of our common stock or rights to acquire shares of our common stock, if any of our existing stockholders sells a substantial amount of our common stock, or if the market perceives that such issuances or sales may occur, then the trading price of our common stock and the Convertible Notes could decline substantially.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
We had no unresolved SEC staff comments that were issued 180 days or more preceding December 31, 2023.
ITEM 1C. CYBERSECURITY
Cybersecurity Risk Management and Strategy
The safety and security of our customers and team members is our top priority. This includes working to put in place appropriate administrative, physical and technical cybersecurity safeguards to help protect our assets that keep our operation running and securely store the information in our care. We have developed and implemented a cybersecurity risk management program intended to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of our systems and information.
We have created, and assess our program against, an integrated cybersecurity framework using various National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) security standards, guidelines and best practices. This does not imply that we meet any particular technical standards, specifications, or requirements, only that we use various NIST security standards, guidelines and best practices to identify, assess, and manage cybersecurity risks relevant to our business.
Our cybersecurity risk management program is overseen by our Executive Cybersecurity Risk Group (ECRG) which is comprised of our Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO), Chief Financial Officer and Chief Legal Officer. The ECRG, working with our Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), assists the Board of Directors and our senior leadership team in fulfilling their responsibilities for cybersecurity governance, approval and oversight through the periodic reporting and review of security strategy and risk management practices. Our cybersecurity risk management program is integrated into our overall risk management processes and shares common reporting channels and governance processes that apply across the enterprise to other legal, compliance, strategic, operational, and financial risk governance programs.
Our cybersecurity risk management program includes:
risk assessments designed to help identify material cybersecurity risks to our critical systems, information, and our broader enterprise IT environment;
a cybersecurity team principally responsible for managing our (1) cybersecurity risk assessment processes, (2) security controls, (3) vulnerability management program and (4) detection and response to cybersecurity incidents;
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the use of external service providers, where appropriate, to assess, test or otherwise assist with aspects of our security controls;
policies, procedures and standards that are utilized to outline expectations, guidelines and best practices for managing cybersecurity risks;
cybersecurity awareness training for our employees, incident response personnel and senior management;
a cybersecurity incident response plan that includes procedures for responding to cybersecurity incidents; and
a third-party risk management process for critical IT service providers, suppliers, and vendors.
We are constantly assessing our environment for cybersecurity threats, and we face risks from cybersecurity threats that, if realized, are reasonably likely to materially affect us, including our operations, business strategy, results of operations or financial condition. At the time of this filing, we have not identified risks from known cybersecurity threats, including as a result of any prior cybersecurity incidents, that have materially affected us, including our operations, business strategy, results of operations or financial condition. See Part I, Item 1A. Risk Factors – “Evolving cybersecurity and data privacy requirements (in particular, compliance with applicable federal, state and foreign laws relating to handling of personal information about individuals) could increase our costs, and any significant cybersecurity or data privacy incident could disrupt our operations, harm our reputation, expose us to legal risks and otherwise materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Cybersecurity Governance
Our Board of Directors consider cybersecurity risk as part of its risk oversight function and has delegated to the Audit Committee (Committee) oversight of cybersecurity and other information technology risks. The Committee oversees management’s implementation of our cybersecurity risk management program.
The Committee receives quarterly reports from management on our cybersecurity risks. In addition, management updates the Committee, as necessary, regarding any material cybersecurity incidents, as well as certain incidents with lesser impact potential.
The Committee reports to the full Board of Directors regarding its activities, including those related to cybersecurity. The full Board of Directors also receives periodic briefings from management on our cyber risk management program. Board of Directors members receive presentations on cybersecurity topics from a combination of our CDIO, CISO, Deputy General Counsel, internal security staff, external counsel or external experts, as part of the Board of Director’s continuing education on topics that impact public companies.
Our management team, including our CDIO, CISO, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel – Chief Privacy and Data Protection Officer, Vice President of Infrastructure and Operations and