United Airlines 747. Courtesy, Boeing

The good news continued Thursday for the US airline industry as United Continental Holdings (UCH), parent of merger partners United Airlines (UA) and Continental Airlines (CO), reported 2011 net income of $840 million.

That was down 12% from a pro form net profit of $955 million in 2010, but the impressive result is another sign that US airlines have been able to mostly offset steep rises in fuel costs with robust revenue performances and capacity discipline. UCH's full-year 2011 revenue grew 8.8% year-over-year on a pro forma basis to $37.11 billion while expenses lifted 9.6% to $35.29 billion, producing an operating profit of $1.82 billion, down 5.1%. The company's full-year 2011 aircraft fuel costs increased by 29.5% to $12.38 billion.

UCH did incur a fourth-quarter net loss of $138 million owing mostly to special charges related to the integration of UA and CO. The loss was narrowed from a pro forma net deficit of $325 million it the 2010 December quarter.

UCH's full-year 2011 mainline traffic decreased by 1.5% year-over-year on a pro forma basis to 181.76 billion RPMs. Capacity was down 0.3% to 219.44 billion ASMs and load factor was 82.8%, down 1.1 points. Passenger yield rose 10.4% to 14.29 cents.