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United's August Traffic Grows

United reported good unit revenue increases, but analysts say future growth could be stunted.
Author:

CHICAGO (

TheStreet

) --

United

(UAUA)

became the latest airline to report double digit unit revenue gains in August, but the slowing economy and tougher comparisons mean the future may not be so bright.

The carrier said passenger revenue per available seat mile increased 18% to 19%. In a comparison to August 2008, a far stronger travel period than the 2009 month, United PRASM increased by 0.0% to 1 %.

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Also, consolidated revenue passenger miles in August increased by 2.5%, while capacity as measured by available seat miles grew by 1.7%. This resulted in a load factor increase of 0.6 points to 86.7%.

"In August, we continued to be among the industry leaders in PRASM improvement and our operational performance was again very strong," said United president John Tague in a prepared statement.

In a report, UBS analyst Kevin Crissey said United's RASM performance, while strong, was slightly below expectations, which may have been explained by a capacity increase. Crissey said the slowing economy threatens the revenue environment for airlines, even airlines like United with broad global networks.

United shares opened Thursday at $22.06. UBS has a 12-month price target of $35. "The stock appears quite cheap but lacks a positive catalyst," Crissey said.

Meanwhile, Dahlman Rose analyst Helane Becker noted that most airlines have reported double digit unit revenue growth in August. "As we have indicated before, year over year comparisons do not become difficult until 4Q10," Becker wrote in a report.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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Ted Reed