United Airlines posts steep loss

NEW YORK • United Airlines Inc’s revenues plunged nearly 80% in the third quarter (3Q) compared to last year’s levels, but it signalled preparations for a potential rebound in air travel in its earnings report on Wednesday.

The Chicago-based carrier reported a loss of US$1.8 billion (RM7.47 billion) on revenues of US$2.5 billion, a drop of 78% from last year amid the severe hit to air travel from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

But United said it was ready for a rebound, and had been cutting costs and building up cash reserves, raising some US$22 billion through debt and stock issuance and government relief programmes.

“Having successfully executed our initial crisis strategy, we’re ready to turn the page on seven months that have been dedicated to developing and implementing

extraordinary and often painful measures, like furloughing 13,000 team members, to survive the worst financial crisis in aviation history,” said United CEO Scott Kirby.

“Even though the negative impact of Covid-19 will persist in the near term, we are now focused on positioning the airline for a strong recovery that will allow United to bring our furloughed employees back to work and emerge as the global leader in aviation.”

United said it had available liquidity of US$19.4 billion, having borrowed US$6.8 billion from private sources and secured the ability to borrow US$5.2 billion from the US Treasury.

The tenuous state of air travel has been the focus of negotiations with the White House and Congress on stalled negotiations for a fresh Covid-19 relief package.

United said it had reduced total operating costs by 59% from the 3Q of 2019 with measures that included an agreement with its pilot group that avoids furloughs by securing flexibility in work hours.

The airline said it is already seeing some improvement in travel compared to earlier this year, and it resumed nonstop service on 146 domestic routes and restarted or launched service on 78 international routes.

Earlier this week, Delta Air Lines Inc reported a loss of US$5.4 billion and said the timing of a full industry recovery remained clouded by the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta, which reported a similar 76% plunge in revenue, said it had seen some positive booking momentum heading into the holiday season, but a real recovery depends on a comeback in business travel and the end of travel quaran- tines. — AFP