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United Airlines' Q3 loss exceeds estimates, cash burn falls

United Airlines Holdings Inc. incurred a larger-than-expected loss for the third quarter as the coronavirus pandemic continued to constrain demand for air travel, although the Chicago-based carrier also reported a lower cash burn rate that came in line with its target.

The airline swung to a third-quarter adjusted net loss of $2.37 billion, or $8.16 loss per share from year-ago adjusted net income of $1.05 billion, or $4.07 per share.

The S&P Capital IQ consensus estimate for third-quarter normalized loss per share was $7.55.

Third-quarter GAAP net loss was $1.84 billion, or $6.33 loss per share, compared with net income of $1.02 billion, or $3.99 per share, in the prior-year period.

Total operating revenue plunged 78.1% year over year in the third quarter, to $2.49 billion from $11.38 billion, as passenger revenue collapsed by 84.3%. The S&P Capital IQ consensus estimate for third-quarter revenue was $2.54 billion.

United said its average daily cash burn rate was $25 million in the third quarter, meeting its target, down from $40 million in the second quarter. Total operating expenses dropped 58.6% year over year, to $4.10 billion from $9.91 billion.

United, which is furloughing 13,000 employees, incurred $350 million in workforce-reduction and other related costs in the third quarter.

The company said its total available liquidity at the end of the third quarter was about $19.4 billion, surpassing its target of $18 billion.

"Even though the negative impact of COVID-19 will persist in the near term, we are now focused on positioning the airline for a strong recovery that will allow United to bring our furloughed employees back to work and emerge as the global leader in aviation," United CEO Scott Kirby said in the company's earnings release.