Skip to main content

United Airlines'




said first-quarter losses surged to more than $1 billion on reorganization expenses and high fuel costs.

The airline, which has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since December 2002, reported a loss of $1.08 billion, or $9.23 a share. A year earlier, it lost $459 million, or $4.17 a share.

The results included two large noncash items: a $433 million curtailment charge related to a federal insurer's move to take over pensions of ground workers and $293 million in charges related to the rejection of aircraft.

United's operating loss was $250 million vs. a $211 million loss a year earlier. The company attributed much of its latest operating loss to higher fuel costs. With crude oil prices increasing in the first quarter, United spent $805 million on jet fuel, 33.5% more than it did in the first quarter of 2004.

Revenue totaled $3.92 billion, virtually flat from $3.91 billion a year before. Unit revenue fell 1% from a year before, reflecting lower average fares. United has been reducing capacity on domestic routes but increasing it on more lucrative international flights.

"In an extremely tough industry environment, we made progress in executing our business plan," said Glenn Tilton, United's chairman and CEO. "By maintaining focus on United's customers, our employees turned in operational performance near top levels in the company's history."

United is struggling to emerge from bankruptcy protection. On Tuesday, it received bankruptcy court approval to

terminate its traditional pension plans and turn them over to the government. The carrier says the move is essential for its survival, but it has sparked widespread employee opposition.

United said operating expenses rose 1% year over year to $4.2 billion primarily because of higher fuel costs. Excluding fuel costs and its own sale of fuel to other airlines, United said unit operating costs fell 4%.

Looking ahead, United expects mainline capacity, which excludes regional flights, to decline about 3% in the second quarter from a year ago. It also said it expects fuel prices to surge to an average cost of $1.66 a gallon from an average cost of $1.46 in the first quarter.