United Airlines reports $1.8B loss

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Despite having reduced losses to $25 million a day, United Airlines still lost $1.8 billion in the quarter ended September 30 as the travel downturn spawned by the coronavirus pandemic took its toll.

Passenger revenue plummeted 84% as the airline cut back its seat capacity by 70%. The airline said it furloughed 13,000 employees after the federal stimulus package ran out Sept. 30 and has taken other steps to try to cut its losses.

CEO Scott Kirby, in an interview with CNBC, predicted that United will be the first to stop losing money, returning to become cash flow positive “sometime next year.” As bad as its daily losses have been, the airline took credit for having reduced them from nearly $40 million a day at the end of the second quarter.

Kirby said he expects to be the first of the large airlines to become cash-flow positive but doesn’t expect demand to recover fully until at least 2022 after a vaccine becomes available. “We see the path through to the end,” he said. Until then, United has $19.4 billion to see it through.

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