United Airlines swings to $1.7 billion loss in first quarter as bookings disappeared in coronavirus pandemic

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A United Airlines plane prepares to take off at the Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City, on March 20, 2020.

Pedro Pardo | AFP | Getty Images

United Airlines Thursday posted its biggest quarterly loss since 2008 and expects to burn an average of $40 million to $45 million a day in the second quarter as the coronavirus continues to hurt bookings.

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The Chicago-based airline and its competitors are facing a 95% decline in U.S. air travel, just as customers are normally gearing up for summer vacation. The second and third quarters are generally the most lucrative for airlines but the virus and shelter-in-place orders are keeping would-be travelers home.

United swung to a $1.7 billion loss in the three months ended March 31, from a $292 million profit in the same period of 2019. Revenue dropped nearly 17% to $7.98 billion, slightly below analysts’ estimates.

The airline earlier this month disclosed a pretax loss of $2.1 billion in the quarter. Adjusted per-share earnings came in at $2.57, a smaller loss than expected.

United executives will detail the results and outlook in a 10 a.m. ET earnings call on Friday.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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