United Airlines CEO: ‘we are optimistic about the spring and beyond’

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United Airlines Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: UAL) on Wednesday reported market-beating results for its fiscal fourth quarter. Shares still fell more than 2.0% in extended trading after the air carrier said it has to push back on increasing capacity until later in 2022 due to Omicron.

Q4 results

United lost $646 million in Q4 that translates to $1.99 per share. This compares to $1.9 billion in the same quarter last year or $6.39 per share. Adjusted for nonrecurring items, it saw a loss of $1.60 a share.

The airline generated $8.2 billion in sales – a 141% increase from last year but down nearly 25% from the 2019 equivalent. According to FactSet, experts had forecast $2.09 of adjusted per-share loss on $8.0 billion in sales.

Cost per available seat mile (CASM) was up 11% in the recent quarter, and pre-tax margin stood at negative 10.3%.

Future outlook

United Airlines expects capacity to remain below the pre-pandemic level in 2022. Total operating revenue, it added, will be down up to 25% from 2019 levels in the current quarter.

The air carrier agreed that the outlook was rather bleak in the near term but confirmed that bookings for the upcoming spring and beyond were still strong. In the earnings press release, CEO Scott Kirby said:

While Omicron is impacting near term demand, we remain optimistic about the spring and excited about the summer and beyond. We look forward to beginning to return the Pratt & Whitney 777s to service this quarter and getting the full airline back to normal utilisation.

United also revealed that it was on track to hit its capacity and CASM-ex targets for 2023 and 2026. The airline had $20 billion in available liquidity at the end of Q4.

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