United releases its fourth quarter and full-year 2021 financial results

United Airlines issued this financial report for the fourth quarter 2021 and full year 2021:

United Airlines (UAL) today announced 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-ex1 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 777-200s, 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, means: 1) the airline will fly fewer available seat miles (ASMs) in 2022 than 2019 and 2) CASM-ex1 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.

“The United team has been fighting through unprecedented obstacles to, once again, overcome the new and daunting challenges that COVID-19 is bringing to aviation, and I am grateful to each one of them for their commitment to taking care of our customers,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “While Omicron is impacting near term demand, we remain optimistic about the spring and excited about the summer and beyond. We look forward to beginning to return the Pratt & Whitney 777s to service this quarter and getting the full airline back to normal utilization — as we ramp up along with demand this year. By investing in innovative technology, focusing on process improvements and implementing a transformative United Next strategy, we’re poised to emerge as an aviation leader that’s more efficient than before and serves our customers better than ever.”

Fourth Quarter and Full Year Financial Results

  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 capacity down 23% compared to fourth quarter 2019.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 net loss of $0.6 billion, adjusted net lossof $0.5 billion.
  • Reported full year 2021 net loss of $2.0 billion, adjusted net loss2 of $4.5 billion.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 total operating revenue of $8.2 billion, down 25% compared to fourth quarter 2019.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 Total Revenue Per Available Seat Mile (TRASM) of down 3% compared to fourth quarter 2019.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 Cost Per Available Seat Mile (CASM) of up 11%, and CASM-ex1 of up 13%, compared to fourth quarter 2019.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 fuel price of approximately $2.41 per gallon.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 pre-tax margin of negative 10.3%, negative 8.3% on an adjusted2 basis.
  • Reported fourth quarter 2021 ending available liquidityof $20 billion.


  • Expects first quarter 2022 capacity to be down 16% to 18% versus first quarter 2019.5
  • Expects first quarter 2022 total operating revenue to be down 20% to 25% versus first quarter 2019.
  • Expects first quarter 2022 CASM-ex1 to be up 14% to 15% compared to first quarter 2019.
  • Estimates first quarter 2022 fuel price of approximately $2.51 per gallon.6
  • Now expects full year 2022 capacity to be down versus 2019.5
  • Now expects full year 2022 CASM-ex1 to be higher than 2019.
  • Expects 2022 adjusted capital expenditures to be around $4.2 billion, plus approximately $1.7 billion in 2021 deferred capital expenditures mainly due to the timing of certain aircraft deliveries delayed to 2022, for a total of $5.9 billion.
  • Remains on track to achieve long-term financial targets from United Next plan.7

2021 Key Highlights

  • Announced “United Next” plan to retrofit 100% of the mainline, narrowbody fleet to transform the customer experience and create a new signature interior with a roughly 75% increase in premium seats per departure, larger overhead bins, seatback entertainment in every seat and the industry’s fastest available Wi-Fi.
  • Announced the purchase of 270 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft – the largest combined order in the airline’s history and the biggest by an individual carrier in the last decade.
  • Opened United Aviate Academy with a new diversity goal for at least 50% of the 5,000 students the airline has committed to train by 2030 to be women and people of color.
  • Together with JPMorgan Chase, funded $2.4 million in scholarship assistance to students at the United Aviate Academy.
  • Implemented a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for U.S.-based employees, subject to certain exemptions.
  • Created the Eco-Skies Alliance℠, a first-of-its-kind program, offering United’s corporate customers the opportunity to help reduce their environmental impact by allowing them to pay the additional cost for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
  • In the fourth quarter, became the first airline in aviation history to fly an aircraft with passengers using 100% SAF in one engine.
  • Launched the industry-exclusive “Travel Ready Center” to ease the burden of COVID-19 travel restrictions. Customers can review COVID-19 entry requirements, find local testing options, and upload any required testing and vaccination records for domestic and international travel, all in one place. United is the first airline to integrate all these features into its mobile app and website.
  • Returned to John F. Kennedy Airport after a five-year absence and is now operating direct service to the airline’s West Coast hubs – Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.
  • Launched a new corporate venture capital fund – United Airlines Ventures – which will allow the airline to continue investing in emerging companies that have the potential to influence the future of travel.
  • Offered loyalty program members the chance to win free flights for a year’s worth of travel through “Your Shot to Fly” sweepstakes to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations in support of the Biden Administration’s national effort to encourage people to get vaccinated.
  • Assisted in the evacuation of 15,000 passengers on 94 flights as part of Afghan relief efforts.
  • Committed to purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF over 20 years, which at the time of purchase was one and a half times the size of the rest of the world’s airlines’ publicly announced SAF commitments combined.

Taking Care of Our Customers

  • Introduced virtual, on-demand customer service – Agent on Demand – now available at all U.S. hub airports plus 104 line stations. To date, more than 325,000 customers have taken advantage of this service.
  • Recognized by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and SimpliFlying for providing a hospital-grade standard of cleanliness and safety during the travel journey. United is the first airline among the four largest U.S. carriers to receive the highest possible certification.
  • Provided customers the ability to schedule COVID-19 tests and have results reviewed in advance through United’s industry-leading Travel-Ready Center.
  • Announced a first-of-its-kind collaboration to use Abbott’s BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Home Test and Abbott’s NAVICA app to help make the international travel experience more seamless.


  • Launched 14 new destinations, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, and five new international destinations – key highlights include Accra, GhanaLagos, NigeriaBridgetown, Barbados; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Announced service to five new destinations for 2022 — including Palma de MallorcaSpain; Azores, Portugal; and Bergen, Norway. Also announced summer 2022 launch of previously postponed destination – Nice, France.
  • In the fourth quarter announced a new shuttle schedule between Newark Liberty and Reagan Washington National Airports, with the customer-favorite, dual-class CRJ-550 aircraft.
  • In the fourth quarter, announced United’s largest domestic schedule since March 2020.
  • In the fourth quarter, announced a new partnership with Virgin Australia Group for seamless connections to cities in Australia and reciprocal earning and benefits for MileagePlus® members (subject to government approval).
  • As of November 2021, offered a first-class cabin on all flights at all three New York/Newark airports.
  • As part of United’s historic Atlantic expansion, announced 22 daily flights between London Heathrow and several U.S. cities – including seven daily flights between Newark International Airport and London Heathrow scheduled to start in March 2022. Following this launch, United will be the only U.S. carrier to offer nonstop service between the nation’s top seven business centers and London Heathrow.
  • Announced a commercial agreement with Airlink to provide customers with easy travel to more than 45 destinations in 13 African countries.

Customer-First Enhancements

  • Achieved the highest ever NPS in the history of the airline. While the pandemic continues, safety comfort satisfaction increased 6 points and cabin cleanliness satisfaction increased 4 points.
  • Achieved most-improved mishandled bag performance among mainline competitors when compared to 2019, a 37% improvement.
  • Achieved on-time departure performance for 2021 of 70.7%, the best yearly performance in company history (excluding 2020).
  • More than 760,000 customers have benefited from ConnectionSaver, with the percentage of customers that have misconnected in 2021 being the lowest since the merger.
  • Opened a brand-new United Polaris® lounge at Washington Dulles and re-opened all other United Polaris lounges except Los Angeles. In addition, in the fourth quarter, completed the re-opening of its domestic United Club℠ network (excluding Phoenix) and re-opened the first international club at London Heathrow.
  • Announced a new luxury bus collaboration for customers to travel to Breckenridge and Fort Collins, Colorado, with convenient year-round ground transportation service connecting through its Denver hub. This is the first time Breckenridge has ever been served by an airline, and it will be Fort Collins’ first global network carrier service in 25 years.
  • Introduced three new promotions that let eligible MileagePlus Premier® members “Pick Your Path” depending on their upcoming travel plan, giving members the chance to fast track their Premier status or earn bonus miles.
  • Expanded beer, wine and snacks to nearly all flights over two hours, including new options like White Claw® Hard Seltzer, Breckenridge Brewery Juice Drop Hazy IPA, and Kona Brewing Co. Big Wave Golden Ale.
  • Recently redesigned United mobile app was voted the Best Travel App in the 25th annual Webby Awards.
  • In the fourth quarter, became the first airline to introduce PayPal QR Codes as an inflight payment option.
  • First U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages.
  • Offered customers the most transparent and user-friendly options in the industry to encourage and simplify using travel credits.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

  • Announced a new goal to reduce its carbon emissions intensity by 50% compared to 2019 by 2035.
  • Announced an agreement to work with urban air mobility company Archer Aviation Inc. as part of the company’s broader effort to invest in emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel rather than relying on traditional combustion engines.
  • Entered into a commercial agreement with Denver-based aerospace company Boom Technology, Inc. to add aircraft to United’s global fleet as well as cooperative sustainability initiative – a move that facilitates a leap forward in returning supersonic speeds to aviation.
  • Announced collaboration with Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Mesa Airlines to invest in electric aircraft startup Heart Aerospace.
  • In the fourth quarter, became the largest airline to invest in zero-emission, hydrogen-electric engines for regional aircraft, the latest move toward achieving its goal to be 100% green by reducing greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets.
  • More than 99 million miles were donated by MileagePlus® members to charities in need of travel through United’s mile crowd-sourcing platform “Miles on a Mission”, with an additional 16 million miles matched by United.
  • More than 1,700 United employees served more than 11,000 volunteer hours.
  • More than $764 million spent with 975 small and diverse-owned businesses.
  • Through a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights, transported nearly 300 million pounds of freight, including nearly 23 million pounds of vital shipments, such as medical kits, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.
  • Transported more than 166 million COVID-19 vaccines in the fourth quarter.
  • Launched a unique Black History Month campaign which raised over $255,000 for The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and United Negro College Fund.
  • For the tenth consecutive year received a perfect score of 100% on the Corporate Equality Index, a premier benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.
  • Teamed up with JPMorgan Chase and Visa in honor of Black History Month to encourage and reward United MileagePlus® Visa cardmembers for making donations to non-profits focused on providing access to educational opportunities for Black students and supporting human and civil rights policies.
  • Teamed up with more than a dozen new environmental, non-profit partners to strengthen the company’s sustainability commitment to become 100% green by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050.
  • Announced a program with the Golden State Warriors to launch the Franchise Fund, a program designed to support minority-owned Bay Area small businesses.
  • More than $326,000 was raised for Airlink, World Central Kitchen, Americares, and Global Giving via CrowdRise to support COVID-19 relief efforts in India, including a $40,000 donation by United.
  • Celebrated the 40th anniversary of the MileagePlus® program by giving away four million miles to essential healthcare workers.
  • Joined forces with JPMorgan Chase and Visa to offer eligible United MileagePlus® Visa cardmembers the ability to earn five total miles for every dollar donated to select charities supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Became the first corporation in at least five years to be presented with the “Volunteer Group of the Year” award from Food Bank of the Rockies. Also, helped Food Bank of the Rockies raise the equivalent of 30,400 meals via a fundraiser.
  • Provided a platform for customers to donate 30 million miles to help support Afghan refugee resettlement efforts.
  • Created September of Service, a month-long series of employee-driven volunteer events honoring the 20th anniversary of 9/11, including over 2,200 hours served by nearly 800 United volunteers, with nearly 185,000 meals packed, as well as 5,000 pounds of trash collected, as well as volunteer events being held at 17 cities across the country, including all United hubs.