United Announces Record First-Quarter Profit - United Hub

United Announces Record First-Quarter Profit

April 23, 2015

CHICAGO, April 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines (UAL) today reported first-quarter 2015 net income of $582 million, or $1.52 per diluted share, excluding $74 million of special items. Including special items, UAL reported first-quarter net income of $508 million, or $1.32 per diluted share. These results are a record first-quarter profit for the company.

  • UAL earned a 17.1 percent return on invested capital for the 12 months ended March 31, 2015.
  • UAL's consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) increased 0.4 percent for first-quarter 2015 compared to first-quarter 2014.
  • First-quarter 2015 consolidated unit costs (CASM), excluding special charges, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing, decreased 1.5 percent year-over-year on a consolidated capacity increase of 0.1 percent. First-quarter 2015 CASM, including those items, decreased 13.1 percent year-over-year.
  • In the quarter, UAL returned approximately $200 million to shareholders as part of its previously announced $1 billion share buyback program.
  • In the quarter, UAL prepaid approximately $120 million of debt and announced its intention, in the second quarter, to prepay $601 million of its 6 percent notes due 2026 and 2028.

"This quarter we reported a profit of nearly $600 million, excluding special items, a $1 billion improvement compared to the first quarter of 2014, and I'd like to thank the United team for all their great work," said Jeff Smisek, UAL's chairman, president and chief executive officer. "We continued to improve our operational reliability and deliver products that enhance our customers' experience, including new aircraft, improved food, new inflight entertainment options and modern facilities. We are making significant progress on our long-term plan to reduce costs, improve our margins and grow our earnings, and expect our second quarter pre-tax margin to be between 12 and 14 percent, excluding special items."

First-Quarter Revenue and Capacity

For the first quarter of 2015, total revenue was $8.6 billion, a decrease of 1.0 percent year-over-year. First-quarter consolidated passenger revenue increased 0.5 percent to $7.4 billion, compared to the same period in 2014. Ancillary revenue per passenger in the first quarter increased 8.6 percent year-over-year to more than $23 per passenger. First-quarter cargo revenue grew 15.8 percent year-over-year to $242 million. Other revenue in the first quarter decreased 14.2 percent year-over-year, mostly due to the reduction in sales of fuel to a third party. The corresponding expense decline from this reduction appears in third-party business expense.

Consolidated revenue passenger miles increased 0.1 percent and consolidated available seat miles increased 0.1 percent year-over-year for the first quarter, resulting in a first-quarter consolidated load factor of 81.1 percent.

First-quarter 2015 consolidated PRASM increased 0.4 percent and consolidated yield increased 0.4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014.

"This quarter our PRASM performance reflected good progress on our revenue initiatives," said Jim Compton, UAL's vice chairman and chief revenue officer. "We will continue to match capacity with demand while making the appropriate network, fleet and product decisions to enhance revenue and margin performance, while improving our customers' experience."

Passenger revenue for the first quarter of 2015 and period-to-period comparisons of related statistics for UAL's mainline and regional operations are as follows:

First-Quarter Costs

First-quarter consolidated CASM, excluding special charges, third-party business expense, fuel and profit sharing, decreased 1.5 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014. The improved cost performance was driven by the better-than-expected performance from the company's Project Quality efficiency program and strong U.S. dollar. First-quarter consolidated CASM including those items decreased 13.1 percent.

First-quarter total operating expenses, excluding special charges, decreased $1.19 billion, or 13.2 percent, year-over-year. Including special charges, total operating expenses decreased $1.18 billion, or 13.0 percent, in the first quarter versus the same period in 2014.

First-Quarter Liquidity and Cash Flow

In the first quarter, UAL generated over $1 billion in free cash flow, and ended the quarter with $7.0 billion in unrestricted liquidity, including $1.35 billion of undrawn commitments under its revolving credit facility. During the first quarter, the company had gross capital expenditures of $794 million, excluding fully reimbursable projects. The company contributed approximately $180 million to its pension plans and made debt and capital lease principal payments of $320 million in the first quarter, including approximately $120 million of prepayments. UAL also announced its intention to prepay the remaining $303 million of 6 percent notes due 2026 on April 1, 2015 and to prepay $298 million of 6 percent notes due 2028 on May 1, 2015.

As part of UAL's $1 billion share buyback program, the company spent approximately $200 million in share repurchases in the first quarter. Through the first quarter, UAL has returned a total of approximately $520 million to shareholders under the program.

For the 12 months ended March 31, 2015, the company's return on invested capital was 17.1 percent.

For more information on UAL's second-quarter 2015 guidance, please visit ir.united.com for the company's investor update.

Fleet Updates

Today, UAL announced refinements to its fleet plan, which will allow the company to achieve longer-term network needs without increasing its outlook for capacity or gross capital expenditures over the next several years. These adjustments will accelerate the company's network initiatives as it transitions flying into the mainline operation from the regional operation, increases average gauge and reduces reliance on 50-seat aircraft. As part of this effort, the company will:

  • Complete the removal of more than 130 50-seat aircraft from its schedule by the end of 2015. UAL will remove additional 50-seat aircraft in 2016 and beyond as aircraft come off lease.
  • Exchange 10 787 orders with Boeing for 10 777-300ERs for delivery beginning in 2016. The new 777-300ER aircraft will provide attractive upgauge and range opportunities to the company at competitive economics.
  • Extend the life of 11 additional 767-300ER aircraft. The company now plans to extend the life of all 21 767-300ER through investments in winglets, reliability improvements and interior modifications, which will improve financial performance and make the aircraft more customer pleasing.
  • Reconfigure and transition 10 777-200 aircraft currently used in international markets into the domestic network, and position a number of its trans-Atlantic 757-200 fleet into the domestic and Latin markets, with the extension of the 767-300ER aircraft.
  • Acquire additional used narrowbody aircraft. The company is in final negotiations regarding the lease of 10 to 20 used narrowbody aircraft for delivery over the next few years. In addition, the company plans to continue to seek other opportunities to acquire used aircraft to meet its needs as market conditions allow.

These changes will not impact the company's current 2015 capacity guidance, and are consistent with the company's focus on capacity discipline, and will not alter the company's current gross annual capital expenditure guidance of $2.7 billion to $2.9 billion over the next three to four years.

"These changes are part of our strategy to improve operational reliability, grow capacity with demand, and enable us to achieve our long-term goal to improve margins and return on invested capital," said John Rainey, UAL's executive vice president and chief financial officer. "Customers tell us they prefer larger aircraft, and these fleet modifications will provide more opportunity for our customers to travel on the type of aircraft they prefer."

About United

United Airlines and United Express operate an average of nearly 5,000 flights a day to 373 airports across six continents. In 2014, United and United Express operated nearly two million flights carrying 138 million customers. United is proud to have the world's most comprehensive route network, including U.S. mainland hubs in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. United operates nearly 700 mainline aircraft, and this year, the airline anticipates taking delivery of 34 new Boeing aircraft, including the 787-9 and the 737-900ER. United is also welcoming 49 new Embraer E175 aircraft to United Express. The airline is a founding member of Star Alliance, which provides service to 193 countries via 27 member airlines. More than 84,000 United employees reside in every U.S. state and in countries around the world. For more information, visit united.com, follow @United on Twitter or connect on Facebook. The common stock of United's parent, United Continental Holdings, Inc., is traded on the NYSE under the symbol UAL.

Safe Harbor Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: Certain statements included in this release are forward-looking and thus reflect our current expectations and beliefs with respect to certain current and future events and financial performance. Such forward-looking statements are and will be subject to many risks and uncertainties relating to our operations and business environment that may cause actual results to differ materially from any future results expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements. Words such as "expects," "will," "plans," "anticipates," "indicates," "believes," "forecast," "guidance," "outlook" and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Additionally, forward-looking statements include statements that do not relate solely to historical facts, such as statements which identify uncertainties or trends, discuss the possible future effects of current known trends or uncertainties or which indicate that the future effects of known trends or uncertainties cannot be predicted, guaranteed or assured. All forward-looking statements in this report are based upon information available to us on the date of this report. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, changed circumstances or otherwise, except as required by applicable law. Our actual results could differ materially from these forward-looking statements due to numerous factors including, without limitation, the following: our ability to comply with the terms of our various financing arrangements; the costs and availability of financing; our ability to maintain adequate liquidity; our ability to execute our operational plans, including optimizing our revenue; our ability to control our costs, including realizing benefits from our resource optimization efforts, cost reduction initiatives and fleet replacement programs; our ability to utilize our net operating losses; our ability to attract and retain customers; demand for transportation in the markets in which we operate; an outbreak of a disease that affects travel demand or travel behavior; demand for travel and the impact that global economic conditions have on customer travel patterns; excessive taxation and the inability to offset future taxable income; general economic conditions (including interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, investment or credit market conditions, crude oil prices, costs of aircraft fuel and energy refining capacity in relevant markets); our ability to cost-effectively hedge against increases in the price of aircraft fuel; any potential realized or unrealized gains or losses related to fuel or currency hedging programs; the effects of any hostilities, act of war or terrorist attack; the ability of other air carriers with whom we have alliances or partnerships to provide the services contemplated by the respective arrangements with such carriers; the costs and availability of aviation and other insurance; industry consolidation or changes in airline alliances; competitive pressures on pricing and on demand; our capacity decisions and the capacity decisions of our competitors; U.S. or foreign governmental legislation, regulation and other actions (including open skies agreements and environmental regulations); labor costs; our ability to maintain satisfactory labor relations and the results of the collective bargaining agreement process with our union groups; any disruptions to operations due to any potential actions by our labor groups; weather conditions; and other risks and uncertainties set forth under Item 1A., Risk Factors, of UAL's Annual Report on Form 10-K, as well as other risks and uncertainties set forth from time to time in the reports we file with the SEC.

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2015 - Special items


Severance and benefits: During the three months ended March 31, 2015, the company recorded $50 million of severance and benefits related to a voluntary early-out program for its flight attendants. In 2014, more than 2,500 flight attendants elected to voluntarily separate from the company and will receive a severance payment, with a maximum value of $100,000 per participant, based on years of service, with retirement dates through the end of 2015. The company will record approximately $50 million of additional expense through the remainder of 2015 associated with this program over the remaining required service periods.






Integration-related costs: Integration-related costs include compensation costs related primarily to systems integration and training for employees.




Loss on extinguishment of debt and other, net: During the three months ended March 31, 2015, the company recorded $6 million of losses as part of Nonoperating income (expense): Miscellaneous, net due to the write-off of the debt discount related to the redemption of the 6% Notes due 2026 and 6% Notes due 2028.






MTM losses from fuel hedges settling in future periods and prior period losses on fuel contracts settled in the current period: The company utilizes certain derivative instruments that are economic hedges but do not qualify for hedge accounting under U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. The company records changes in the fair value of these economic hedges to Nonoperating income (expense): Miscellaneous, net in the statements of consolidated operations. During the three months ended March 31, 2015, the company recorded $36 million in MTM losses on economic hedges that will settle in future periods. For economic hedges that settled in the three months ended March 31, 2015, the company recorded MTM losses of $32 million in prior periods. The figures above also include an insignificant amount of ineffectiveness on hedges that are designated for hedge accounting.




2014 - Special items


During the three months ended March 31, 2014, the company recorded $14 million of severance and benefits and $34 million in integration-related costs. The severance and benefits primarily related to reductions of management and front-line employees, including from Hopkins International Airport (Cleveland), as part of its cost savings initiatives. The company reduced its average daily departures from Cleveland by over 60 percent during the second quarter of 2014. The company is currently evaluating its options regarding its long-term contractual commitments at Cleveland. The capacity reductions at Cleveland may result in further special charges, which could be significant, related to our contractual commitments. In addition, the company recorded $21 million of losses due to exchange rate changes in Venezuela applicable to funds held in local currency.




MTM losses from fuel hedges settling in future periods and prior period gains on fuel contracts settled in the current period: The company utilizes certain derivative instruments that are economic hedges but do not qualify for hedge accounting under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The company records changes in the fair value of these economic hedges to Nonoperating income (expense): Miscellaneous, net in the statements of consolidated operations. During the three months ended March 31, 2014, the company recorded $26 million in MTM losses on economic hedges that will settle in future periods. For economic hedges that settled in the three months ended March 31, 2014, the company recorded MTM gains of $22 million in prior periods. The figures above also include an insignificant amount of ineffectiveness on hedges that are designated for hedge accounting.




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No federal income tax expense was recognized related to the company's pretax income (loss) for the three months ended March 31, 2015, and 2014 due to the utilization of book net operating loss carry forwards for which no benefit has previously been recognized. The company is required to provide a valuation allowance for its deferred tax assets in excess of deferred tax liabilities because UAL concluded that it is more likely than not that such deferred tax assets will ultimately not be realized.







 

 

 

 

 

 

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SOURCE United Airlines

For further information: United Airlines Worldwide Media Relations, +1-872-825-8640, media.relations@united.com

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