United Airlines Publishes Loss Following MAX Groundings

Daniel Fowkes
21 Apr 2024
· Airlines 
A United Airlines Boeing 7777-300ER departs Brussels in Belgium

When publishing its financial results for the first quarter of 2024, United Airlines highlighted the impact of the MAX groundings, subsequent delivery delays, and other events.

The major U.S. carrier declared a pre-tax loss of USD 164 million, which, while significant compared to results for the same quarter one year prior, still represents an improvement. Considering the turbulent start to the year, this should be the key takeaway.

In the first week of 2024, the FAA mandated the grounding of 737-9 jets following a door blowout incident aboard an Alaska Airlines jet. These planes remained grounded for several weeks as United battled capacity shortages and other issues.

Across the first quarter and thus far, United Airlines said it saw an approximately USD 200 million impact from the MAX groundings. Interestingly, if this hadn’t occurred, United Airlines said it would’ve reported a first-quarter profit, which would’ve represented an even stronger turnaround for the company.

I want to thank the United team for working so hard this quarter to deliver strong operational metrics for our customers and sharpen our focus on safety, while producing excellent financial results for our shareholders. We’ve adjusted our fleet plan to better reflect the reality of what the manufacturers are able to deliver. And, we’ll use those planes to capitalize on an opportunity that only United has: profitably grow our mid-continent hubs and expand our highly profitable international network from our best in the industry coastal hubs

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby.

United saw increases across several key travel markets, including business traffic, which is one of the industry’s slower areas to return following the global pandemic. Overall, United says it’s proud of its first-quarter performance.

Some Highlights For United

During the first quarter, United also revealed that it had reached an important milestone in its fleet retrofit program. Now, 200 new and retrofit aircraft feature the signature bigger bins, seatback entertainment, and Bluetooth connectivity.

These iniaitives, alongside more inside the cabin, are meant to elevate the customer experience, and the company believes it’s well on the way to achieving these increased levels.

Total capacity grew 9.1% over the 2023 first quarter, while their operating revenues stood at USD 12.5 billion, representing a 9.7% increase over the first quarter of 2026. Liquidity by the end of the quarter was at USD 16.9 billion.

United celebrated the opening of an expanded flight training centre as well. Located in Denver with 12 full motion flight simulators across a 150,000 square foot building, this is expected to allow the next generation of pilots to arrive on the scene.

On-time performance was deemed another vital area during the quarter, with the second-best OTP achieved in any first quarter across company history. Meanwhile, the consolidated seat factor was 84.1%, with March being the highest in the month’s history.

A record number of days carrying over 500,000 passengers also occurred in the first quarter, this stretch coming in at 16 days. U.S. airlines have had an incredibly strong recovery following the pandemic, with markets returning to pre-COVID levels rapidly. Additionally, these same airlines have been able to use new and existing aircraft to tap into new markets.

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