United Airlines' financial hole grew deeper over the summer as a modest recovery in air travel slowed down, pushing the carrier to a loss of $1.84 billion in the typically strong third quarter.
The airline said Wednesday that revenue plummeted 78% from a year earlier. The loss was worse than analysts expected.
The results from United reinforced the damage the pandemic is doing to a major industry. Seven months into the worst of the coronavirus impact in the U.S., air travel remains down 65% from a year ago. The decline in lucrative business travel is even deeper.
United executives believe investors are less interested in current losses and more interested in what the airline plans to do to improve its competitive position when travel recovers.
CEO Scott Kirby said the airline has “successfully executed our initial crisis strategy” and is ready to move on.
“Even though the negative impact of COVID-19 will persist in the near term, we are now focused on positioning the airline for a strong recovery that will allow United to bring our furloughed employees back to work and emerge as the global leader in aviation,” Kirby said in a statement. United declined to officials available to discuss the results before a call with analysts on Thursday.
Chicago-based United began furloughing 13,000 other workers on Oct. 1, and several thousand other employees took severance packages to leave voluntarily.
United's third-quarter loss, excluding what the company considers unusual items, was $8.16 per share. Analysts expected the so-called adjusted loss to be $7.53 per share, according to a FactSet survey of 18 analysts.
Revenue plunged to $2.49 billion, roughly in line with analysts' forecast. Cargo was a rare bright spot, with revenue up 50%.