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updated: 4/25/2013 8:48 AM

United's 1Q loss narrows as fuel costs drop

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  • The parent of United Airlines reported a smaller first-quarter loss on Thursday, as fuel costs declined and revenue rose 1 percent.

      The parent of United Airlines reported a smaller first-quarter loss on Thursday, as fuel costs declined and revenue rose 1 percent.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

The parent of United Airlines reported a smaller first-quarter loss on Thursday, as fuel costs declined and revenue rose 1 percent.

The first quarter is the slowest travel season of the year, and it's not unusual for airlines to lose money then. This year, though, Chicago-based United's biggest rival, Delta, posted a small profit for the period, and Southwest and US Airways made money, too. Some airlines have said that government spending cuts that began in March hurt business, but United made no mention of the cuts in its earnings release.

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Fuel expenses fell 6 percent, helped by less flying, slightly lower prices per gallon, and bets on fuel prices. But labor costs jumped 12 percent. United Continental Holdings Inc. has been signing new wage deals that cover workers who came from both airlines, including a new pilot contract approved in December.

Losses totaled $417 million, or $1.26 per share, compared with a loss of $448 million, or $1.36 per share, in 2012's first quarter. The Chicago-based airline would have lost 98 cents per share excluding one-time charges, including $70 million in expenses related to its merger with Continental. That beat the expectations of analysts, who had been expecting the company to post a loss of $1.09 per share.

Revenue rose a little more than 1 percent to $8.72 billion, matching analyst expectations. A measure of fares paid per mile rose 1.9 percent, though costs outpaced the fare growth. Per-seat costs rose about 7 percent.

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