United Airlines plans to increase international capacity by 10 percent in 2022 while keeping domestic capacity flat at 2019 levels.
The airline is hoping to take advantage of a rebound in premium leisure travel, the reopening of the US to European travelers next month, and early indications of loosening travel restrictions in key Pacific markets.
It said the plan would capitalize on already improving international margins and “ideally situated coastal hubs” that had powered the recent success in launching new routes to Africa and India.
It expected to fly at record levels to Europe, Latin America, India, Africa and the Middle East in summer 2022, noting this would be enabled by the return in 2022 of its Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s.
Also helping: $US2.2 billion in structural cost reductions and planned gauge growth that would allow it to keep unit costs in check.
“The recovery was delayed by the Delta variant, but the United team remains focused on our long-term vision – and not getting side-tracked by near-term volatility – meaning we’re solidly on track to achieve the targets we set for 2022,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby.
“From the return of business travel and the planned re-opening of Europe and early indications for opening in the Pacific, the headwinds we’ve faced are turning to tailwinds, and we believe that United is better positioned to lead the recovery than any airline in the world.
“Our recovery will be supported by investments in technology and other efficiencies that will give our employees the tools they need to take great care of our customers – and keep costs under control.”
Kirby made the comments as the US carrier released its third-quarter financial results.
United posted a $US473 million third-quarter profit thanks to more than $US1 billion in federal government aid as revenue came in 32 percent lower than the year-ago quarter.
Third-quarter capacity was down 28 percent compared to the third quarter 2019 but the difference was expected to drop to 23 percent in the fourth quarter.
Separately, US government figures showed domestic airfares rose by 12.6 percent in the second quarter of 2021 as passenger numbers rose significantly.
The average domestic fare came in at $US300, up from a first-quarter adjusted fare of $US266.
Although this was 10 percent higher than the second quarter of 2020 and 18.2 percent higher than the lowest adjusted fare last year, it was still down 24.7 percent compared to the second quarter of 2016.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics said fares increased as passenger demand rose. US airlines reported 62.5 million originating passengers in the second quarter of 2021, up from 33.4 million in the first quarter.