United Airlines parent UAL Corp. reported a first-quarter loss of $152 million Wednesday, its second straight period in the red just a year after its emergence from bankruptcy.
The results by the nation's No. 2 carrier were improved from a year ago in what is a seasonally weak quarter in the airline industry. But revenue fell well short of Wall Street's expectations and the stock fell more than 2 percent in morning trading.
The net loss for the January-through-March period amounted to $1.32 per share. A year earlier, the company reported a net loss of $223 million, or $1.95 per share. A direct comparison is complicated by the fact its three-year bankruptcy restructuring ended during the first quarter of 2006.
Revenue was $4.4 billion, down 2 percent from $4.5 billion a year ago.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting a quarterly loss of 47 cents per share on $4.6 billion in revenue.
Like other airlines, United was pressured by resurgent crude oil prices as well as costly winter storms that forced thousands of cancellations and delays.
The company also said its switch to a deferred revenue accounting policy for its frequent-flier miles program resulted in $107 million less in passenger revenue than would have been recorded under the previous method.
UAL said it cut its costs per average seat mile, a key industry barometer, by 4.3 percent from the first quarter of 2006 while operating cash flow increased 38 percent to $626 million.
"We continue to generate significant cash flow by tightly controlling costs and improving ticket revenue growth in a seasonally weaker quarter, at the same time investing strategically in the customer and the enterprise," said Glenn Tilton, United's president, chairman and CEO.
UAL is in the process of moving its headquarters to downtown Chicago from suburban Elk Grove, Ill.