United Airlines (UAL) Q4 2023 earnings

United has 79 aircraft in its fleet, more than any other airline, followed by Alaska. United said Monday that it expects the planes to remain grounded until January 26, although its forecast assumes they will not be able to fly at all this month.

Both airlines canceled hundreds of flights this month while planes remained on the ground for inspection. The most common Boeing 737 Max 8, in fleets in the US, US and Southwest, is not affected by the grounding order.

United said it expects unit costs, excluding fuel, to rise by moderate percentage points in the first quarter from last year, with three points of that impact coming from discontinuing the Max. It expects fixed unit revenues for the first three months of the year.

United's first-quarter warning comes after a relatively strong holiday period, even though the airlines faced several winter storms in the first few weeks of January.

United shares rose more than 6% in after-hours trading.

In the last three months of 2023, United generated net income of $600 million, down about 29% from last year. Revenue was $13.63 billion, up nearly 10% from the prior year and ahead of analyst estimates. Adjusting for one-time items, United's fourth-quarter earnings of $2 per share fell from $2.46 a year earlier.

Here's what United said in The fourth quarter Compared to what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $2.00 vs. $1.69 expected
  • Total revenue: $13.63 billion compared to the expected $13.54 billion
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United met its full-year adjusted earnings target of between $10 and $12 per share, reporting $10.05 for all of 2023.

“Despite unpredictable headwinds, we achieved our ambitious EPS target that few thought possible — and generated new operating numbers for our customers,” United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in an earnings release.

The airline touted strong travel demand late last year and strong bookings so far this year. For all of 2024, United expects adjusted earnings of between $9 and $11 per share, within analyst estimates.

United executives are holding an earnings call at 10:30 a.m. EST Tuesday where they will likely face questions about compensation from Boeing for grounding them. Alaska will report its results before the market opens on Thursday, and Boeing is scheduled to report its results on January 31.

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