United Airlines Holdings Inc. tumbled after the company said it expected to record a $2.1 billion loss in the first quarter as the coronavirus outbreak all but erased air-travel demand in March.
The pretax loss, which will be about $1 billion on an adjusted basis, came as revenue dropped 17% from a year earlier to $8 billion, the carrier said Monday in a regulatory filing. The results are preliminary and subject to change.
The airline’s early look at first-quarter results is the first for big U.S. carriers and presages a gruesome set of earnings reports after flights were curtailed worldwide. Travel at U.S. airports is about 5% of what it was a year earlier. Delta Air Lines Inc. is scheduled to release its earnings on April 22, with Southwest Airlines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc. following next week.
United fell 6.7% to $27.14 at 9:39 a.m. in New York, the biggest drop on a Standard & Poor’s index of major U.S. airlines. The shares had tumbled 67% this year through April 17, also the worst on the industry stock gauge.
The carrier filed the basic results, without balance sheet details, in an effort to be transparent, executives said on a call with reporters. A more detailed release is expected in coming weeks.
“The company plans to proactively evaluate and cancel flights on a rolling 60-day basis until it sees signs of a recovery in demand,” United said in the filing.
In the filing, United said it had applied for a loan from the U.S. Treasury Department under a rescue program for airlines, and expected to be able to borrow as much as $4.5 billion from the government through Sept. 30 for a term of as long as five years. That would complement $5 billion in payroll assistance the company disclosed last week.
To raise additional cash, the Chicago-based carrier agreed to sell almost two dozen jetliners to a unit of BOC Aviation Ltd. and lease them back.
The agreement, reached April 17, involves six Boeing Co. 787-9 Dreamliner wide-body planes and 16 narrow-body 737-9 Max jets that are scheduled for delivery this year. The Max has been out of service for more than a year following two fatal crashes, and Boeing has said it hopes to resume shipments around summer following regulatory approvals.
The leaseback deal follows a similar arrangement by Delta that Bloomberg News reported last week.
United reiterated its expectation for 90% drop in capacity next month, underscoring the likelihood of even deeper damage for major airlines as passengers continue to stay home because of the pandemic. The company said last week that travel demand had fallen to “essentially zero.”