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A Case Study on Cost Estimation and Profitability Analysis at Continental Airlines

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A Case Study on Cost Estimation and Profitability Analysis at Continental Airlines Francisco J. Román Introduction In 2008, the senior management team at Continental Airlines, commanded by Lawrence Kellner, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, convened a special meeting to discuss the firm’s latest quarterly financial results. A bleak situation lay before them. Continental had incurred an operating loss of $71 million dollars—its second consecutive quarterly earnings decline that year. Likewise, passenger volume was significantly down, dropping by nearly 5 percent from the prior year’s quarter. Continental’s senior management needed to act swiftly to reverse this trend and return to profitability. Being the fourth largest…show more content…
Additionally, the firm could reduce various miscellaneous expenses through targeted cuts in discretionary spending. In sum, to close the gap in profitability, Continental’s strategy was geared toward slashing operating costs by cutting capacity and through aggressive identification and implementation of cost-cutting initiatives. 1 To illustrate, jet fuel is tied to the price of oil and, over the past year, oil prices surged from about $70 to $135 per barrel. Consequently, the price of jet fuel increased markedly, from an average of $1.77 per gallon to $4.20 by the mid-summer of 2008. 2 Specifically, on June 13, 2008, Continental Airlines announced that it planned to reduce its flight capacity by 11 percent. By shrinking capacity, Continental expected to reduce the number of domestic and international flights from its three major hubs in Houston, Cleveland, and Newark (Maynard 2008). The next step would be for management to know precisely how their decision to downsize capacity would impact the firm’s future operating costs, and also identify specific areas in which the firm could achieve additional cost reductions. Additionally, the cost analysis would help forecast the firm’s operating costs and projected profits (or losses) for the upcoming fiscal year. However, before we can proceed with such analysis, an examination of how the various categories of Continental’s costs behave is in order. Before we begin, let us
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