United Airlines has said that it cut operating costs by 59% in the third quarter and had nearly $20 billion of liquidity to position it for an eventual recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that has hammered the travel industry.
Airline executives have signaled a slow but steady improvement in leisure demand, but do not foresee a recovery to 2019 levels for at least two years, with business and international travel being particularly slow to bounce back amid ongoing travel restrictions.
When the rebound finally arrives, airlines want to have a cost structure and network in place.
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"We're ready to turn the page on seven months that have been dedicated to developing and implementing extraordinary and often painful measures, like furloughing 13,000 team members, to survive the worst financial crisis in aviation history," United CEO Scott Kirby said.
He acknowledged, however, that the "negative impact of COVID-19 will persist in the near term."
Chicago-based United said that its daily cash burn slowed to an average $25 million in the quarter that ended in September from $40 million in the second quarter, and included $4 million per day in severance and debt payments.
Including voluntary departures, United said that it has cut its workforce by 22,000 employees, leading to approximately $765 million in pre-tax costs in the third quarter.
United had $19.4 billion of liquidity at September 30.
Revenue fell by 78% to $2.49 billion, slowing from a plunge of approximately 87% in the previous quarter and helped by a 50% jump in revenue from its cargo business.
Quarterly Adjusted Loss
United said that its quarterly adjusted loss was $2.37 billion, or $8.16 per share, compared with adjusted net income of $1 billion, or $4.07 per share, a year earlier.