On a record pace
WASHINGTON (NYT) - Airline passenger loads show no signs of
easing, and in fact carriers have already boarded millions more
passengers this year than last, when a record 581.2 million
Through this May, the latest month for which totals are
Delta Air Lines alone has boarded almost 3.5 million more passengers
than during the comparable period last year; at its current pace,
carrier will board more than 100 million passengers by the end of
year. Over the same five months UAL's United Airlines has flown 1.2
million more passengers than it did last year, AMR's American
Airlines 922,512 more and Northwest Airlines 800,000 more.
Airlines say there are still many seats available, noting that
despite last year's record number of passengers the industry load
factor, or percentage of seats filled, still hit only 69.8 percent.
But seats are still available on many flights only if passengers
don't mind a roundabout itinerary, or don't mind leaving extra early
or extra late.
But even seats on off-hour flights are harder to find, because
airlines are making great efforts to fill them. Last week, for
example, American and American Eagle, its commuter line, announced
fares that average 50 percent less than regular 21-day advance
purchase fares. Available in selected cities into and out of
American's hubs in Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago, and subject to the
usual restrictions, the fares are good for travel Sunday through
Friday -- but only on flights scheduled to depart between 5 a.m. and
HMO earnings to rise
NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- Health-maintenance organizations' second
quarter earnings will rise after many raised prices enough this year
to cover the rising costs of prescription drugs and hospital visits
by their customers.
Oxford Health Plans Inc. and WellPoint Health Networks Inc. will
lead the industry's profit growth, helped by mounting pressure to
U.S. health care costs. United Healthcare Corp. and Healthsource
Inc. also will benefit from boosting prices in January. "This
really will be the first up quarter for a lot of HMOs" since the
second quarter last year, said ABN Amro Chicago Corp. analyst Peter
Costa. "You will see some improved results."
Health-maintenance organizations, or HMOs, charge a fixed price to
provide health care coverage to members for a one-year term, usually
beginning in January. The fee is based on their estimate of how much
of a plan's services and treatments the members will require during
Scaling the chicken
GOLDEN, Colo. (Bloomberg) -- Boston Chicken Inc. will scale back
its ambitious expansion plans for the next two years, as the company
attempts to preserve cash and squeeze more profit out of existing
restaurants. Boston Chicken, which earlier said it would review
plans to open 300 Boston Markets a year, now expects to add 150 to
200 restaurants in 1997 and 150 to 250 in 1998. The slower expansion
pace will reduce earnings growth for both years, though the company
didn't say by how much.
The size of the cutback, which is about what analysts expected, is
a key indicator for investors of the once high-flying chain. If
Boston Chicken cuts too many restaurants, it would no longer be seen
as a growth stock and the shares would fall; if it doesn't cut
enough, earnings would be hurt even more.
"The changes that they have made -- both operationally and slowing
sales growth -- weakens the doomsayers' arguments," said Mitchell
Pinheiro, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott Inc. "This company
has a lot of legs."
400 gone at Ward Holding
CHICAGO (Bloomberg) -- Montgomery Ward Holding Corp. fired 400
people, or about 20 percent, of its corporate headquarters staff, a
spokeswoman said Wednesday. The struggling department-store
retailer said the firings are a part of its plan to turn around
a string of quarterly losses. It said the move will cut costs and
improve efficiencies by eliminating management layers. …