The fiscal bleeding continues for still-bankrupt United Airlines, a unit of
, which announced losses from operations of $75 million during the month of April.
However, that's a $221 million improvement from a year ago, when the carrier lost nearly $300 million as the war in Iraq drastically reduced travel demand. On a net basis, the carrier lost $137 million, which, when added to its
first-quarter loss, puts its net losses for the first four months of 2004 just shy of $600 million.
While the losses are mounting, United continues to improve while operating under bankruptcy protection. The carrier said it filled 79.9% of seats in April -- a record for that month -- and said unit revenue rose 20% from last year against a 12% decline in unit costs (which would have fallen 17% if fuel was excluded).
"Like the rest of the industry, we are challenged by high fuel prices," said Jake Brace, United's CFO, in a statement. "If fuel prices were at more typical levels, United would have reported an operating profit in April."
The carrier continued to meet all the requirements of its debtor-in-possession financing under bankruptcy and said it ended April with $2.3 billion in cash, which includes $685 million in restricted cash. United burned through $246 million during April, driven in part by a $110 million contribution to its pension plan.
But to exit from the bankruptcy entered a year-and-a-half ago, the carrier will need to win a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Air Transportation Stabilization Board, which was created after the World Trade Center attacks to keep the airline industry liquid.
And with oil prices high and rival
teetering toward its second bankruptcy in the past two years, the government may not be willing to commit money to bail out a carrier that's lost nearly $600 million over the last four months.
On Wednesday, shares of United, which will become worthless when the company emerges from bankruptcy, closed up 3 cents, or 3%, to $1.03.