United reports its third quarter results

United Airlines Boeing 737-924 ER SSWL N68817 (msn 42747) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 936871.

United Airlines (UAL) has announced its third-quarter 2017 financial results.

  • UAL reported third-quarter net income of $637 million, diluted earnings per share of $2.12, pre-tax earnings of approximately $1.0 billion and pre-tax margin of 9.9 percent.
  • Excluding special charges, UAL reported third-quarter net income of $669 million, diluted earnings per share of $2.22, pre-tax earnings of $1.0 billion and pre-tax margin of 10.4 percent.
  • UAL repurchased $556 million of its common shares in the third quarter, bringing the year-to-date share repurchases to $1.3 billion.
  • UAL delivered the best-ever third-quarter consolidated on-time departures in the history of the company, and employees earned $11 million in bonuses for operational performance.

“I could not be prouder of how our employees are raising the bar both in terms of serving our customers, as well as delivering record-setting operational performance. Not only did they manage to keep our operation moving through back-to-back natural disasters, but the United family banded together to help one another take part in one of the largest relief efforts in our airline’s history,” said Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Airlines. “Even with the challenging environment in the third quarter, we continue to set the stage for United’s long-term success and investing in the right strategy for our future.”

During the quarter, the company cancelled approximately 8,300 flights as a result of severe weather in southeast Texas, Florida and parts of the Caribbean. The operational disruption reduced third-quarter pre-tax income by an estimated $185 million.

Third-Quarter Revenue

For the third quarter of 2017, revenue was $9.9 billion, roughly flat year-over-year including an estimated $210 millionloss of revenue from severe weather during the quarter. Third-quarter 2017 consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) was down 3.7 percent compared to the third quarter of 2016. Cargo revenue was $257 million in the third quarter of 2017, an increase of 14.7 percent year-over-year primarily due to higher international freight volume.

Third-Quarter Costs

Operating expense was $8.8 billion in the third quarter, up 6.0 percent year-over-year. Consolidated unit cost per available seat mile (CASM) increased 3.0 percent compared to the third quarter of 2016 due largely to higher fuel and labor expense. Third-quarter consolidated CASM, excluding special charges, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing, increased 2.6 percent year-over-year, driven mainly by higher labor expense.

Liquidity and Capital Allocation

UAL generated $577 million in operating cash flow and ended the quarter with $6.3 billion in unrestricted liquidity, including $2.0 billion of undrawn commitments under its revolving credit facility. Capital expenditures were $1.1 billion in the third quarter.

In the third quarter of 2017, UAL raised $400 million of unsecured debt with an interest rate of 4.25 percent. The company contributed $160 million to its pension plans and made debt and capital lease principal payments of $222 million. In the quarter, UAL purchased $556 million of its common shares at an average price of $67.08 per share. As of Sept. 30, 2017, the company had approximately $553 million remaining under its existing share repurchase authority.

For the 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2017, the company’s pre-tax income was $3.3 billion and return on invested capital (ROIC) was 14.9 percent.

“As we balance United’s customer, employee and shareholder priorities going forward, a key focus remains returning cash to shareholders and we continued this during the third quarter, repurchasing $556 million of stock, which brings our year-to-date repurchase total to $1.3 billion,” said Andrew Levy, executive vice president and chief financial officer of United Airlines. “Our balance sheet remains strong as evidenced by the 4.25 interest percent rate on the $400 million of unsecured debt raised during the quarter.”

For more information on UAL’s fourth-quarter 2017 guidance, please visit ir.united.com for the company’s investor update.

Third-Quarter Highlights
Customer Experience

  • New Customer Solutions Desk rolled out system-wide with a dedicated team to develop creative solutions to ensure customers reach their final destinations when their travel plans don’t go as expected.
  • Named the 2017 Airline of the Year in recognition of United Polaris business class experience at the International Flight Services Association (IFSA) Compass Awards.
  • Unveiled a bag tracking feature in the United mobile app which allows customers to track their checked bags from check-in to arrival.
  • Retrofitted the first Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with the United Polaris business class.
  • United Polaris earned Global Traveler magazine’s “Outstanding Innovations” award at the Global Traveler’s fifth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards.
  • Became the first U.S.-based airline to offer a new option to check in and learn about flights without the touch of a finger through a new United skill for Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot.
  • Officially announced the final flight of the Boeing 747-400 as it retires, with the final voyage on Nov. 7, 2017 from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Network and Fleet

  • Announced several new routes:
    • New international nonstop service between Houston and Sydney, nonstop seasonal service to Mazatlan, Mexico, increased seasonal service to popular ski destinations and more options for Seattle-area customers with daily service between Paine Field and Denver and San Francisco.
    • Announced new seasonal service between Denver and London; Newark, New Jersey, and Porto, Portugal and Reykjavik, Iceland; San Francisco and Zurich; and Washington Dulles and Edinburgh, Scotland. Additionally, announced expanded year-round service between Newark and Rome.
  • Announced an agreement with Airbus to modify its A350 order resulting in a conversion of the model type from the A350-1000 to the A350-900, an increase in the order size from 35 to 45 aircraft and a deferral of the first delivery to late 2022.
  • Took delivery of one Boeing 787-9 aircraft, four Boeing 737-800 aircraft and nine Embraer E175 aircraft.
  • Finalized agreements to take delivery of two additional used Airbus A320 aircraft by the end of 2017.

Operations and Employees

  • In response to the recent catastrophic weather events Harvey, Irma and Maria, United and its employees came together to keep the operation moving and take part in relief efforts:
    • Operated 84 additional flights to provide additional seats and deliver needed relief supplies to impacted areas.
    • Operated 46 relief flights, flying more than 2,000 evacuees out of impacted areas.
    • Flew 767 flights with larger aircraft in order to carry more people and supplies. The combination resulted in over 13,600 additional seats to impacted areas.
    • Delivered over 1.7 million pounds of relief supplies to aid the recovery in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
    • Customers and employees, with supporting funds from the company, raised and contributed more than $9 million to community and employee assistance.
  • Continued to improve the mobile tools used by employees, including the first release of the “in the moment” care app, and new functionality in flight attendant tools to better serve customers. These tools were the basis for the company receiving the CIO 100 award.
  • Announced partnerships with three world-class design and apparel companies – Brooks Brothers, Tracy Reeseand Carhartt – to inspire and create a new line of uniforms for the carrier’s more than 70,000 front-line employees.

Copyright Photo: United Airlines Boeing 737-924 ER SSWL N68817 (msn 42747) LAX (Michael B. Ing). Image: 936871.