United posts record earnings and forecasts strong profits for bustling summer quarter

A United Airlines airplane flies in front of the Empire State Building and One Vanderbilt in New York City as it comes in for a landing at Newark Liberty Airport on December 3, 2021, in Newark, New Jersey.

Gary Hershorn | Corbis News | Getty Images

United Airlines on Wednesday posted record quarterly earnings and forecast a strong third quarter thanks to an unrelenting travel boom, led by a return of international travel.

The airline lost some of its capacity during the second quarter because of flight disruptions at its Newark, New Jersey hub. But its quarterly results and forecast still surpassed analysts’ estimates thanks to strong demand.

Shares rose roughly 3% in extended trading following the report.

Here’s what United reported for the second quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $5.03 vs. an expected $4.03
  • Total revenue: $14.18 billion vs. expected $13.91 billion

United reported net income of $1.08 billion or $3.24 per share, compared with $329 million, or $1 per share, during the same period last year. Adjusting for one-time items, the company earned $1.67 billion, or $5.03 per share.

United’s CEO Scott Kirby earlier this month said the company will have to reduce flights at Newark Liberty International Airport. A series of early-summer thunderstorms derailed United’s operation at the airport, disrupting thousands of flights and displacing passengers and crews.

“The United team persevered through an unprecedented series of events at the end of last month,” Kirby said in an earnings release on Wednesday. “They are the best in the business and we’re focused on the important changes we can make, especially in Newark, to serve our customers even better.”

Kirby said earlier this month that the airline will have to cut back on flying at the hub, which serves the New York City area, to avoid disruptions when flights get backed up at the congested airport.

Still, United expects to grow capacity in the three months ending Sept. 30 by about 16% over last year and estimated revenue growth of as much as 13% over the same period in 2022. United expects to post adjusted earnings per share of between $3.85 and $4.35 for the third quarter, far above analysts’ estimates of $3.70 a share, according to Refinitiv.

Separately over the weekend, United and its pilots’ union said they reached a preliminary labor deal that would give pilots raises of as much as 40% over four years, a deal that comes after years of talks.

The union estimates the deal is worth $10 billion. It still needs to be ratified by United’s 16,000 pilots but could end years of negotiations as United seeks to increase its pilot ranks amid a shortage of aviators.

The airline’s executives will hold a call with analysts at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, when they are likely to face questions on both topics.

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