United Airlines revenue tops estimates

Flying again: A file picture showing a line of travellers at the Denver International Airport. United expects a full recovery in demand by 2023. — AP

CHICAGO: United Airlines reported its sixth consecutive quarterly loss due to the coronavirus pandemic, although revenue quadrupled from a year ago and topped estimates with a strong domestic travel rebound.

US leisure travel has nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels as more people fly for vacation or to visit friends and family following a massive nationwide vaccination campaign.

The Chicago-based United said it would continue ramping up flying in the third quarter and forecast its total unit revenue – comparing sales to flight capacity – for the period would be higher than the same quarter in 2019, a turning point for the airline.

The company said business and long-haul international travel, to which it is more exposed than rivals, accelerated faster than anticipated, and it expects a full recovery in demand by 2023.

United’s adjusted net loss narrowed to US$1.26bil (RM5.34bil), or US$3.91 (RM16.60) per share, in the quarter, from US$2.6bil (RM11.01bil), or US$9.31 (RM39.50) per share, a year ago.

Analysts had estimated a loss of US$3.94 (RM16.70) per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding items, the company lost US$434mil (RM1.84bil) in the second quarter. United has said it expects to be profitable in the third and fourth quarter.

United’s second-quarter adjusted operating revenue rose to US$5.47bil (RM23.2bil) from about US$1.47bil (RM6.23bil) a year ago, above analysts’ average estimate of US$5.35bil (RM22.7bil).

US airlines have played down concerns over the impact of a resurgence in Covid-19, spurred by the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has become dominant in the United States and many other nations.

United’s quarterly revenue was just half of the roughly US$10bil (RM42.4bil) it booked in the same quarter of 2019 before the pandemic jolted the travel industry.

Its shares slipped 0.5% to US$46.08 (RM195.23) each in extended trading after the US airline index had its largest daily percentage gain on Tuesday since November.

As demand returns, US airlines – which benefited from US$54bil (RM228.8bil) in federal Covid-19 aid for workers’ salaries – have rushed to restore their operations.

United last month unveiled its largest-ever aircraft order for 270 jets in a push to boost its domestic capacity by almost 30% and better compete for both premium and low-cost travel.It has also announced a string of investments related to sustainability and innovation as airlines face renewed scrutiny over their environmental impact. — Reuters

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