United Airlines flies in the red on higher fuel prices

HONOLULU and CHICAGO (HawaiiNewsNow) - United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) has issued a formal notification that it expects to post a first quarter loss due to soaring jet fuel prices.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, United costs per available seat mile ran only 1.3 percent higher than year-before levels, but the company reports that in the first quarter of 2012 those costs were up at least 8 percent from last year, about three quarters of that attributable to the jet fuel bill.

United hedged almost half its first quarter fuel costs, but for the second quarter now under way it has hedged only about a third of its fuel costs.

Revenue, United said Monday, was up 5 percent or less.

United has still not yet fully integrated its Continental Airlines operations but the two carriers taken as a whole make the world's biggest airline.

Traffic on United flights fell 3 percent last year but is projected to flatten out this year, falling a further 1 percent or less.

United is one of the largest providers of air capacity from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii and the single most important carrier connecting the West Coast to Kahului, Kona and Lihue. United Continental is the only company offering direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Hilo.

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