United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings posted a 2015 net profit of $4.5 billion, excluding special items that included a $3.1 billion non-cash tax valuation benefit. Including special items, United officially reported full-year net income of $7.3 billion.
The 2015 earnings results were a significant improvement over United’s $1.13 billion net profit in 2014, and indicate that United’s—and the US airline industry’s—financial momentum remains robust.
United president and CEO Oscar Munoz, who has been on medical leave since suffering a heart attack in October and who underwent heart transplant surgery Jan. 6, participated in United’s Jan. 21 earnings conference call with analysts and reporters, and indicated he is nearing a full-time return to work. “I’m certainly darned glad to be here,” Munoz said. “I feel great … [and] certainly will be back full time by the end of the first quarter.”
United’s 2015 operating revenue was $37.86 billion, down 2.7% year-over-year, while expenses decreased 10.5% to $32.7 billion. Operating profit was $5.17 billion, well more than double operating income of $2.37 billion in 2014.
Acting CEO Brett Hart said United’s operational performance continues to make significant strides, noting that in 2015 the airline had its best full-year on-time performance and flight completion factor since its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines.
United’s 2015 system traffic rose 1.5% year-over-year to 208.61 billion RPMs on a 1.6% increase in capacity to 250 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 83.4%, down 0.2 point. Passenger yield fell 4.3% to 15.72 cents.
Regarding competition with ultra-low cost carriers (ULCCs), United vice chairman and chief revenue officer Jim Compton said United will “introduce an entry-level fare that will appeal to the purely price-driven customer” in the second half of 2016.
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