United Airlines says it remains optimistic about the operating environment in the year ahead despite a global furore over its treatment of a passenger on a regional flight.
The US carrier returned better than expected results for the three months prior to the incident in which a doctor was dragged bleeding from a flight between Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky, so a staff member could take his seat.
Doctor David Dao is suing the airline over the incident which prompted a worldwide uproar and put passenger rights in the media and political spotlight.
The airline recorded a first-quarter net income of $US96 million, or $US129m when special items were excluded, on revenue of $US8.4 billion, up 2.7 per cent on the same quarter a year before. The stock market reacted to the results by boosting United’s share price.
“We saw positive trends in the revenue environment in the quarter and are optimistic about the year ahead,’’ United president Scott Kirby said.
“Looking forward, we expect second-quarter consolidated PRASM (passenger revenue per available seat mile) to be up 1.0 to 3.0 percent.
“This would mark the fifth straight quarter of sequential improvement and the first quarter of positive unit revenue growth in two years.”
Although the airline is still reeling from the backlash caused by the decision to forcibly evict Dao from the flight on April 9, chief executive Oscar Munoz said the first quarter results gave it “a lot of confidence about the foundation we are building”.
Munoz, who has been criticised for his initial response to the incident, acknowledged the airline needed to do a much better job of serving customers.
“The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience, and I take full responsibility,’’ he said. “This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company, and we are more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do.
“We are dedicated to setting the standard for customer service among U.S. airlines, as we elevate the experience our customers have with us from booking to baggage claim.”