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United Reports Strong Fourth Quarter as Airlines Remain Positive on 2023 Outlook


Despite the looming threat of regression, United Airlines and other carriers in the United States are posting strong financial results and remain positive about travel demand.

United announced it had exceeded adjusted operating margin guidance in the fourth quarter, reporting an 11.1 percent operating margin. The company also reported a 9.1 percent pre-tax margin, operating revenue growth of 14 percent and increased total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) by 26 percent.

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For 2022, the airline reported net income of $737 million, an operating margin of 5.2 percent, a pre-tax margin of 2.2 percent and an available ending liquidity of $18.2 billion.

Delta Air Lines said it expects to nearly double its full-year earnings in 2023, with company officials predicting that $30 billion will be spent on travel this year. While the first quarter is usually a slow period for airlines, the carrier said bookings were “significantly ahead both in terms of passenger revenue and volume” of pre-pandemic totals from 2019.

As some experts warn of a worsening economic outlook, airline executives are pointing to the continued demand for domestic travel and the growing international bookings as a way to offset higher fuel and labor costs.

Last week, American Airlines revised its revenue and profit projections for the fourth quarter of 2022, saying it now anticipates that total revenue for the fiscal year’s final three months will come in at 16-17 percent above those seen in 2019’s final quarter. The numbers represent an improvement over the previous 11-13 percent the airline estimated.

As for Southwest Airlines, officials announced it would revise its fourth-quarter financial forecast to “net loss” from “strong profit” after a computer meltdown and bad weather resulted in thousands of delays and cancellations during the busy winter holiday travel period.

The travel chaos was forecast to cost the carrier a pre-tax impact between $725 million to $825 million and revenue loss between $400 million and $425 million.


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