United Airlines absorbs Q4 loss, first full-year profit in 2007 after seven years

United Airlines parent UAL Corp has said that it has registered its first full year profit in 2007, since 2000, with a net income of $403 million. However, it did post a $53 million net loss in the fourth quarter, because of what it said was a "sharp rise in the price of fuel."

United's pre-tax income for 2007 was $695 million, as compared to a pre-tax loss of $45 million in 2006, excluding reorganization charges and benefits.

UAL's 2007 result is also not comparable to $22.88 billion in net income reported in 2006, mainly because of the extraordinary gains upon emergence from bankruptcy.

"We made significant financial strides in 2007, delivering among the best revenue performance in the industry, paying down more than $2 billion in debt and continuing our focus on cost control," executive VP and CFO Jake Brace said.

Though airline officials declined to discuss likely merger moves with other airlines, chairman, president and CEO Glenn Tilton said that UAL could "benefit from constructive consolidation."

He also said that the airline's recent restructuring "puts us in a very good position to participate in that consolidation as we see fit."

Full-year 2007 operating revenue increased 4.1% to $20.1 billion while expenses rose 1.2% to $19.1 billion, producing operating income of $1.04 billion. The revenue was more than double of the $447 million income reported for the previous year.

For the coming year, UA said mainline capacity would be flat year-over-year in 2008, with North America available seat miles (ASMs) dropping 3.5%-4.5% and international capacity rising 5.5%-6.5%.