United Airlines posts $434M quarterly loss but revenue up

United shares were gaining 1.5% in premarket trading

The return of vacation travelers helped United Airlines reduce its quarterly loss to $434 million and the airline posted surprisingly strong revenue.

The Chicago-based airline said it expects to earn a pretax profit in the remaining two quarters of the year. That would break a string of six-straight money-losing quarters since the pandemic began to crush air travel.

United's second-quarter loss would have been far worse — $1.3 billion — without more than $1 billion in federal pandemic aid, which was partly offset by one-time charges. The airline was also hit by higher expenses for jet fuel.

Still, the loss was much smaller than the $1.63 billion United lost a year earlier and the $1.36 billion loss it suffered in the first quarter of this year.

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"Our airline has reached a meaningful turning point: We’re expecting to be back to making a profit once again," CEO Scott Kirby said in a prepared statement.

United shares are up by 1.5% in premarket trading. Shares rose 6.6% in regular trading.

More than 2 million people a day have boarded planes in the U.S. this month, nearly the double the number that were flying back in March.

Travel is still down 20% from pre-pandemic July 2019. 

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Last month, United signaled its confidence in the recovery by placing its largest-ever order for new jets — 270 from Boeing and Airbus — to replace aging planes and allow for growth after the pandemic.

United Airlines is also placing a new bet on electric air travel as part of its goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS, INC. 47.53 -0.42 -0.88%

 In April, Southwest was the first U.S. airline to report a profit since the pandemic hit, and Delta followed last week — in both cases, profits were possible only because airlines have received $54 billion from taxpayers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.