United Airlines posts higher-than-expected revenue after travel demand rebounds

Earnings

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United Airlines on Tuesday reported higher-than-expected revenue as travel rebounded late in the third quarter but the airline didn’t give a timeline for when it would return to profitability.

United posted net income of $473 million thanks to a boost from federal payroll aid. Its third-quarter sales totaled $7.75 billion compared with Wall Street analysts’ expectations for $7.64 billion and down 32% from the same quarter in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic began. It posted a per-share adjusted loss of $1.02, better than the $1.67 analysts expected. That loss strips out the benefit of federal aid.

United shares were up more than 1.7% in postmarket trading after United reported results.

Here’s how United performed in the second quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted results per share: a loss of $1.02 versus an expected loss of $1.67.
  • Total revenue: $7.75 billion versus expected $7.64 billion in revenue.

United said it expects its fourth-quarter capacity to be down 23% in the fourth quarter compared with 2019 and that its sales for the last three months of the year would be down 25% to 30% from the same period two years ago, when it brought in $11.38 billion. Airlines have provided comparisons to 2019 in an attempt to show where they stand compared with before the pandemic.

Chicago-based United is the second major U.S. carrier to report third-quarter earnings. Last week Delta Air Lines posted a profit but warned a surge in fuel prices would weigh on its bottom line in the last three months of the year.

A United Airlines plane prepares to take off at the Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City, on March 20, 2020.
Pedro Pardo | AFP | Getty Images

United said it expects to pay an average of $2.39 a gallon for fuel in the fourth quarter, up from $2.14 in the third quarter.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines are scheduled to report results on Thursday morning.

United Airlines executives will discuss results with analysts and reporters at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

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