CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines lost $646 million in the fourth quarter and said Wednesday that the current spike in COVID-19 cases will hurt its results in the March quarter.
The airline said it expects first-quarter revenue to be down 20-25% from the same period in 2019. Non-fuel costs will increase by around 15% per seat .
The omicron variant of the virus appears in United’s plans for 2022. The airline once hoped to operate 5% more flights than in 2019, but now expects to fly fewer this year than before the pandemic.
United said omicron hurts short-term bookings, but the outlook is better for spring and summer travel. The Chicago-based airline said it is on track to meet its long-term financial goals for 2023 and 2026.
Company officials are due to discuss the results with analysts on Thursday.
United’s loss in the fourth quarter compared to a loss of $1.9 billion a year ago and a profit of $641 million in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Excluding special items, the company said its adjusted loss was $1.60 per share. Analysts had expected a larger loss of $2.09 per share, according to a FactSet survey.
Revenue was $8.19 billion, down 25% from the same period in 2019 but better than analysts’ forecast of $7.96 billion. Passengers traveled 28% fewer kilometers than two years ago.
United lost $1.96 billion for all of 2021, even after securing $4 billion in federal pandemic aid to help cover labor costs.
The airline ended the year with 84,100 employees, down from 95,900 at the end of 2019.
Shares of United Airlines Holdings Inc. fell about 2.4% in extended trading after the earnings report was released.
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