United Airlines reports a $737 million net profit for 2022, a significant improvement over the $-1.964 billion loss for 2021. The fourth quarter saw good margins but was impacted by storm Elliott. United Airlines: $737 million net profit in 2022.

United’s operating result for 2022 was $2.337 billion compared to $-1.022 billion in 2021. Total revenues were $45 billion versus $24.6 billion, of which $40 billion from passenger tickets (2021: $20.2 billion) and $2.2 billion from cargo ($2.3 billion). Operating expenses were higher thanks to soaring fuel prices earlier in the year and ended at $42.6 billion compared to $25.7 billion. United ended the year with $18.2 billion in liquidity and a net debt of $

The full-year result was impacted by the loss-making first quarter when United reported a $-1.377 billion net loss. The airline recovered in Q2 with a $329 million profit and produced its strongest result in Q3 with a $1.790 billion net profit. The full-year operating margin was 5.2 percent.

Strong Q4 margins

By comparison, the operating margin in Q4 was 11.1 percent, up two percentage points over 2019. The Q4 net profit was $843 million compared to $-646 million in the previous year. The operating profit was $1.377 billion versus $-408 million, total revenues $12.4 billion versus $8.2 billion, and operating expenses $11 billion versus $8.6 billion. These results were produced on a nine percent lower capacity versus 2019. Still, total revenues per available seat mile (TRASM) were 26 percent higher over the last year pre-pandemic. At $11.71, costs per ASM excluding fuel were slightly lower than the $11.96 in Q4 2021, while full-year CASM ex-fuel at $11.73 was even $1.23 lower compared to the previous year.

On the severe winter weather in the week preceding Christmas, United says that 36 percent of its flights were “exposed” or canceled. But it succeeded in flying ninety percent of its customers to their final destinations within four hours of their scheduled arrival time. The company credits significant investment in its people, resources, technology and infrastructure over the past few years with its ability to recover from significant weather events”, United says in its earnings release. United hired over 18.000 new staff last year and is investing heavily in pilot training with its expanded Flight Training Center in Denver.

In Q1 2023, United plans to operate at twenty percent higher capacity versus 2022, with operating revenues up around fifty percent. Full-year capacity and operating revenues should be up in the “high teens”. Domestic should fully recover to 2019 levels while international long-haul is looking very strong. Demand for the Polaris business class isn’t back yet at the level United wants it to be, but Premium Plus and Economy are doing very well. Corporate travel is also coming back.

The airline is targeting a full-year nine percent adjusted pre-tax margin. “Over the last three years, United has made critical investments in tools, infrastructure and our people – all of which are essential investments in our future. That’s why we’ve got a big head start, and we’re now poised to accelerate in 2023 as our United Next strategy becomes a reality,” CEO Scott Kirby says in the earnings release.

Fleet

United intends to grow its mainline fleet from 888 aircraft this Q1 to 958 by the end of Q4. The number of Boeing MAX should grow from 98 to 172. The first Airbus A321neo will join in Q3, growing to four by the year’s end, while the number of A319/A320s will be reduced from 180 to 172. There are no changes in the number of widebodies. United placed a bumper order for 100 787s and 100 MAX in December.

The regional fleet will be reduced from 463 to 445 aircraft over the year as United retires eighteen Embraer ERJ-145s and Bombardier CRJ200s and -550s. United announced in December that it would take a ten percent share in regional carrier Mesa Airlines in an exclusive five-year agreement.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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