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

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 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.

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. 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.

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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