lost $176 million in the fourth quarter, but beat estimates and said business travel is picking up.
Excluding items, the carrier said it lost $176 million or $1.05 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated a loss of $1.47 a sahre. Revenue fell 7.8% to $4.19 billion. Analysts had estimated $4.09 billion. A year earlier, excluding items, United lost $567 million in the fourth quarter.
Including items, the fourth-quarter loss was $240 million or $1.44 a share.
"We continued to close the gap to profitability, strengthened our cash position and all of you turned in a great operational performance," said CFO Kathy Mikells, in a letter to employees. "On an operating basis, we were break-even, which is a significant accomplishment in what is seasonally one of our weakest quarters.
"Our consolidated passenger unit revenue declined by 5.2% year over year, which is over nine percentage points better than the decline we saw in the third quarter and nearly 12 percentage points better than the decline we experienced in the second quarter." Mikells wrote. "We saw the largest improvements internationally as a result of continued upward trends in premium cabin bookings and corporate travel."
On the cost side, mainline cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and items rose 1.1%, despite a mainline capacity reduction of 6%.
For the full year, excluding items, United lost $1.1 billion. Including items, the lost was $651 million. United ranked number one among major network carriers for on-time arrivals during the full-year 2009, based on preliminary results, United said.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.