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UPDATE 2-American Airlines trims outlook as 737 MAX costs rise

Sanjana Shivdas and Tracy Rucinski

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Oct 24 (Reuters) - American Airlines Group Inc trimmed its 2019 outlook on Thursday after raising the estimated costs related to the Boeing 737 MAX grounding to $540 million for the year, even after a quarterly profit increase that beat Wall Street estimates.

Shares were up slightly in premarket trading.

The U.S. airline, which has extended cancellations of 737 MAX flights through Jan. 15, had previously said its 2019 pre-tax income would take a $400-million hit because of a safety ban on the aircraft.

The 737 MAX was grounded worldwide in March after two deadly crashes on Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines together killed 346 people within five months.

In the latest quarter, American said it took a $140 million hit to its pre-tax income from the ongoing grounding.

The U.S. airline capped the top end of its adjusted 2019 forecast at $5.50 per share versus its previous forecast range of $4.50 to $6 per share.

Unit costs rose 4.8% in the third quarter, mainly driven by lower than planned capacity due to the Boeing 737 MAX grounding.

American said the third quarter was also affected by ongoing labor contract negotiations.

American said net income rose to $425 million, or 96 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $372 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total operating revenue rose 3% to $11.91 billion.

Excluding items, American earned $1.42 per share, above the average analyst estimate of $1.40 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

(Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Nick Zieminski)