United Airlines reported its highest-ever second-quarter revenue and had its first profitable quarter since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the carrier said on Wednesday.
The Chicago-based airline, the second largest in the US, reported net income of $329mn on operating revenue of $12.1bn. Revenue was up 6 per cent compared with the March to June quarter in 2019, while flying with 15 per cent less seat capacity.
Earnings per share came in at $1.43, below analyst estimates of $1.95 per share, as polled by Refinitiv.
Summer air travel was thrown into chaos in May and June as airline operations struggled to scale up to meet a surge in pent-up demand created by the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 34,000 United flights into, out of or within the US were cancelled or delayed, equivalent to a quarter of its entire roster for those two months, according to flight tracker FlightAware.
“It’s nice to return to profitability, but we must confront three risks that could grow over the next six to 18 months,” said chief executive Scott Kirby, referring to “industry-wide operational challenges that limit the system’s capacity, record fuel prices and the increasing possibility of a global recession”.
Ed Bastian, chief executive of rival Delta Air Lines, told the Financial Times last week that he was not worried about a potential recession’s impact on the airline industry.
United spent approximately $4.18 per gallon of fuel, consuming 912mn gallons in the second quarter. The airline expects fuel prices to moderate in the third quarter to $3.81 per gallon.
The carrier also forecast third-quarter revenue to be up 11 per cent over the same period in 2019, when it came in at $11.4bn. United also reiterated its expectations for a profitable full year.