United Airlines has managed to end 2022 with a net profit, the first time the company has managed to do since 2019, when the airline posted a net income of $3 billion.
In 2022, the airlines’ net income was $737 million, compared to a loss of $1.9 billion recorded during the previous year. Free cash flow was $1.2 billion, even if in Q4 2022 it was -$1.4 billion. Overall, the airline carried 144.3 million passengers, 11.2% fewer than in 2019. However, year-end revenues were 3.9% higher, as United earned $44.9 billion from passenger, cargo, and other operations throughout 2022. In 2019, the carrier earned $43.2 billion.
“Thank you to the United team that, last month, managed through one of the worst weather events in my career to deliver for so many of our customers and get them home for the holidays,” said Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines. “Our dedicated team used our state-of-the-art tools to prepare for the bad weather, take care of our customers and quickly recover once the worst of the weather had passed,” he added.
Furthermore, Kirby mentioned that the company has invested in tools, infrastructure, and people, which is why United Airlines has “a big head start, and we’re now poised to accelerate in 2023 as our United Next strategy becomes a reality”. United Next was announced on June 29, 2021. The airline ordered 200 Boeing 737 MAX (150 737 MAX-8 and 50 MAX-10) and 70 Airbus A321neo aircraft and unveiled plans to retrofit the remaining mainline narrow-body jet fleet and create a new signature interior, which would increase premiums seats by 75% per a North American departure.
The addition of these aircraft would add 25,000 jobs, read the company’s announcement at the time.
Addressing high fuel costs
United Airlines continued to shop for new aircraft and signed a deal with Boeing in December 2022 for 200 new jets.
On December 13, 2022, the airline ordered 100 Boeing 737 MAX and 100 Boeing 787 aircraft. The carrier’s latest Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing shows that it began 2023 with 888 mainline aircraft and 463 regional aircraft.
By the end of the year, United Airlines plans to fly 958 mainline and 445 regional aircraft. The mainline fleet will see its ranks bolstered with 74 Boeing 737 MAX and four Airbus A321neo aircraft while reducing the number of A319/A320 jets by eight. The regional airline fleet will see 18 50-seat aircraft leave United’s fleet.
Out of the total $13.1 billion operating expenses, $11.4 billion was related to fuel. The airline operates a fleet that is on average 16.9 years old, compared to American Airlines’ average of 12.4 years. Delta Air Lines’ fleet is 14.7 years old on average.
American Airlines is yet to release its full-year results. However, the airline issued a guidance to investors, indicating that its Q4 2022 revenues would be between 16% and 17% higher compared to Q4 2019. Previous guidance was between 11% and 13%. The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)-based company will publish its 2022 results on January 26, 2022.
Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines ended 2022 with a $1.3 billion net profit.