United Airlines achieves fourth-quarter financial targets and reiterates long-term commitments

©United Airlines

United Airlines (UAL) has reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2021 financial results and reiterated confidence in its longer-term United Next financial targets. The company achieved every major financial guidance target for the fourth quarter – and set a new Net Promoter Score (NPS) record in 2021 – despite the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant.

Despite near-term volatility, bookings for spring travel and beyond remain strong, which is why the Omicron spike has not altered the airline’s confidence in the 2023 and 2026 CASM-ex United Next targets announced last year. The airline starts 2022 with a scaled-back schedule, reflecting the impact of the Omicron spike on demand. However, as the year progresses, United expects to nimbly ramp up capacity by ungrounding 52 Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s, as demand returns, which will yield improvements in the airline’s gauge and aircraft utilization. The airline expects this approach, which continues to prioritize matching capacity to demand, will mean that: 1) the airline will fly fewer available seat miles (ASMs) in 2022 than 2019 and 2) CASM-ex will decline significantly over the course of 2022. Most importantly, these 2022 trends will lay the groundwork for successful execution of the multi-year United Next strategy and achievement of the financial targets set for 2023 and beyond.

United Airlines reported that fourth quarter 2021 capacity was down 23% compared to fourth quarter 2019 and reported fourth quarter 2021 net loss of US$0.6 billion (adjusted net loss of US$0.5 billion) and a full year 2021 net loss of US$2.0 billion (adjusted net loss of US$4.5 billion).

Fourth quarter 2021 total operating revenue was US$8.2 billion, down 25% compared to fourth quarter 2019 and fourth quarter 2021 Total Revenue Per Available Seat Mile (TRASM) was down 3% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. (£1.00 = US$1.36 at time of publication)

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