REUTERS: United Airlines on Tuesday reported a first quarter profit increase that easily beat Wall Street forecasts as it sold more tickets and cut costs, standing by its 2019 profit target even as its Boeing Co 737 MAX jets remain grounded.
Chicago-based United has removed its 14 MAX aircraft, which were suspended worldwide in March following two fatal crashes, from its flying schedule through early July, eating into U.S. airlines' peak summer travel season.
Still, the airline's parent United Continental Holdings Inc reiterated its estimate for adjusted earnings of US$10 to US$12 per share in 2019, and said its strategy for scheduling more flights out of its hubs was continuing to win customers.
Adjusted earnings per share rose to US$1.15 in the first quarter, ending March 31, from 49 cents a year earlier, overcoming a U.S. government shutdown and severe winter weather earlier this year that curtailed flights.
Analysts on average had forecast 95 cents per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Its shares rose 2 percent in after-hours trading.
No. 3 U.S. carrier is the first of three U.S. 737 MAX operators to report first-quarter results. Southwest Airlines Co reports on April 25 and American Airlines Group Inc on April 26.
Rival Delta Air Lines Inc, which does not operate the 737 MAX, lifted its 2019 revenue forecast last week after reporting better-than-expected quarterly profit, boosted by travel demand and a renewed agreement with credit-card issuer American Express Co.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby)