US airlines see a “glimmer of hope” as bookings improve

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. airlines on Monday signaled concrete signs of recovery in the industry as the slowdown in the Covid-19 pandemic helped leisure bookings, and United Airlines said it expects to stop its cash burn in March.

“I think we’re close to the end of the virtual world,” United CEO Scott Kirby said at the JP Morgan conference.

Kirby said he expects the core liquidity burn to be positive in March. This is expected to continue after March, he said, assuming the current reservations route remains the same.

Chicago-based United, which was among the most pessimistic airlines a year ago, was the first to say it might reach the stage of burning money in the industry.

United shares rose 7.1% to $ 60.30 in early NYSE trading.

Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways all said first-quarter revenue will drop at minimum expectations or less than previously expected as vaccine launches accelerate and more people plan vacations or visits to friends and relatives.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian, speaking at the same conference, said there was a “glimmer of real hope” and he was “cautiously optimistic” that the airline might stop its cash burn this spring.

Delta shares rose 3.6% on the New York Stock Exchange while Southwest shares rose 1.3%. JetBlue shares gained 1.4% on the Nasdaq.

More than 1.3 million passengers were screened at US airports on Friday and Sunday, according to Transportation Security Administration data, the highest number since the pandemic crushed air travel in 2020.

Delta, which has said it will use the cash to buy aircraft in the second quarter, expects its first-quarter revenue drop to be at its minimum forecast of a 60% to 65% drop in the same quarter in 2019, before the start. The epidemic.

Southwest expects lower cash flow in the first quarter on Monday and lower operating income for February and March than previously expected.

JetBlue also forecast a slowdown in revenue decline in the first quarter, forecasting a decline of between 61% and 64%, compared to the same period in 2019. It previously forecast a decrease in revenue of 65% to 70%.

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