United sees 1Q loss on cost of potential contract for pilots

CHICAGO (AP) — United Airlines said Monday it will lose up to $1 a share in the first quarter after accounting for some of the cost of a potential new contract with pilots.

Wall Street was expecting United to post a first-quarter profit on the back of strong travel demand, and United shares fell 6% in after-hours trading.

United is still negotiating with its pilots, who are eager to match a recently ratified contract that will give Delta pilots cumulative raises averaging 34% over four years. United said in a regulatory filing that it will book the expense for a new agreement in the first quarter instead of the second quarter.

The airline now expects to lose between 60 cents and $1 per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had been predicting a profit of 60 cents per share. United forecast earnings of 50 cents to $1 per share in January.

The Chicago-based airline said demand for flights remains strong. It expects first-quarter operating revenue to be up 51% from a year earlier, one point higher than the previously forecast increase.

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