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United Airlines reported fourth-quarter profit nearly a third higher than in the same period in 2019, even though the airline flew less than before the pandemic © Reuters

United Airlines predicts earnings in 2023 will be well above analysts’ forecasts, with the carrier expecting to keep benefiting from strong travel demand and high operating margins.

The Chicago-based airline said it expected to earn $10 to $12 a share this year, well above the Wall Street consensus of $6.64 a share.

United said it expected customers to want to fly as much as they did in 2019 but the supply of flights would be tighter, which might “drive structurally higher industry margins”.

The carrier said the industry’s overall capacity had been restricted by a shortage of pilots, delays in the delivery of new aircraft and outdated technological infrastructure.

It forecast that first quarter revenue for 2023 would be 50 per cent of that in the same period in 2022 and expected operating expenses to fall between 3 per cent and 4 per cent as the airline expands its flying capacity by 20 per cent.

“We remain excited by the earnings power of United in this environment,” said Cowen analyst Helane Becker.

United reported fourth-quarter profit nearly a third higher than in the same period in 2019, even though the airline flew less than before the pandemic.

United’s net income of $843mn in the three months to the end of December was 31 per cent higher than three years ago. It earned $2.55 a share, beating Wall Street’s expectation of $2.11.

The company’s stock rose more than 2 per cent in after-market trading.



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