United Airlines reported “strong evidence” of pent-up demand for air travel and was positioned to benefit from a resumption in business and international flights.
The carrier said on Monday it was “already moving” to capitalize on emerging demand from countries where vaccinated travelers are welcome, and highlighted recently announced international flights to Greece, Iceland and Croatia, which are subject to government approval.
In a statement accompanying the release of first quarter results, the company said these “opportunistic measures” were helping to position it “to return to a positive bottom line even if international demand from business and long-haul only returned. at around 35% of 2019 levels. ”.
Scott Kirby, Managing Director, said: “We have focused on the next step on the horizon and now see a clear path to profitability. We are encouraged by the strong evidence of pent-up demand for air travel and our continued ability to respond with agility. “
United reported a 60% drop in total revenue to $ 3.22 billion in the first three months of 2021, just $ 38 million below the average forecast of analysts polled by Refinitiv. Its reported net loss narrowed to $ 1.36 billion, from a loss of $ 1.7 billion a year earlier and Wall Street’s forecast for a loss of $ 1.62 billion.
The company said its network capacity in the first quarter was down 54% from the same three-month period in 2019. The capacity in the current quarter is forecast to be about 45% lower. than in the second quarter of 2019. Total revenue per available seat-mile, a popular industry metric, is expected to be about 20 percent lower this quarter compared to two years ago.
United shares were down about 2 percent after-hours trading.
With a growing number of Americans receiving vaccines, air passenger numbers have recovered to their highest levels since the pandemic crushed air travel a year ago.
United are responding to some of these encouraging trends and said earlier this month they plan to start hiring pilots again in May to meet growing demand. The airline said last week would reimburse some of the taxpayer money he borrowed at the height of the coronavirus pandemic after successfully leading a $ 9 billion fundraiser in the bond and loan markets.