American Airlines Group (NASDAQ:AAL) lost $2.2 billion in the first quarter as the airline industry was decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company reported quarterly results this morning. The airline is taking steps to cut costs to weather the storm, but will likely need to raise additional capital in the months to come.

Before markets opened Thursday, American said it lost $2.65 per share in the quarter on revenue of $8.52 billion, falling short of consensus expectations for a $2.33-per-share loss on revenue of $8.9 billion. The airline ended the quarter with $6.8 billion in available liquidity, but expects to end the current quarter with $11 billion in cash thanks to government support and other balance sheet preservation efforts.

An American Airlines jet leaving the hanger.

Image source: American Airlines.

"Never before has our airline, or our industry, faced such a significant challenge," American CEO Doug Parker said in a statement. "We have a lot of difficult work ahead of us. And while there is still uncertainty in what's to come, we are confident that through the dedication of the American Airlines team and our swift actions, we will get through this for our team, our customers and our shareholders."

Investors knew going into the quarterly reporting season that airlines would post significant losses in both the first and second quarter, and are eager to hear what the companies are doing to preserve cash. 

American expects to reduce total operational and capital expenditures by $12 billion in 2020, in part by slicing capacity by 80% in both April and May and by 70% in June. The airline is also retiring four aircraft types, including its fleets of Boeing 757s and 767s and Airbus A330-300s, and has suspended marketing and hiring campaigns. 

The airline expects to burn through about $70 million in cash per day in the current quarter but hopes to have that rate down to $50 million per day by the end of June. Still, American is likely to seek additional capital in the form of debt or equity in the months to come as management expects a slow recovery even after the pandemic is contained.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.