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American, United lost combined $1.6 billion to end 2021 amid Omicron COVID-19 surge

American, United lost combined $1.6 billion to end 2021 amid Omicron COVID-19 surge
The Texas-based airline said it flew more than 165 million passengers in all of 2021, which was more than any other U.S. carrier. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- American Airlines and United Airlines, two of the three largest carriers in the world, posted combined losses of more than $1.5 billion during the final quarter of 2021 -- indicating that COVID-19 still is making a significant impact on the travel industry.

American, the world's largest airline by fleet size, said in its earnings report on Thursday that it lost $931 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, on revenues of $9.43 billion -- a sizable difference from the $11.3 billion that it made before the pandemic in 2019.

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The Texas-based airline said it flew more than 165 million passengers in all of last year, which was more than any other U.S. carrier.

"As we close out the second year of operating in a global pandemic, we are incredibly proud of the American Airlines team," American Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said in a statement.

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"Over the past year, we have experienced periods of high travel demand countered by periods of decreased demand due to new COVID-19 variants."

Robert Isom, who will succeed Parker as CEO on March 31, said American is on the right track in its recovery path.

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"Looking forward, our focus in 2022 will be to continue running a reliable airline, returning to profitability, and delivering on our long-term plan to deleverage the balance sheet," Isom said in a statement.

United said it expects revenue in the first quarter of 2022 to be off by as much as 25%, compared to the same period in 2019 when it generated close to $10 billion. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

Meanwhile, United on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter loss of $646 million -- which was a significantly smaller loss than the $1.9 billion hole it reported for the fourth quarter of 2020. Before the pandemic in 2019, United saw a profit of $641 million in the final quarter.

The airline said capacity over the final quarter last year was down 23% compared with 2019, and that it's concerned the trend will continue with the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

"The United team has been fighting through unprecedented obstacles to, once again, overcome the new and daunting challenges that COVID-19 is bringing to aviation," United CEO Scott Kirby said in a statement.

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"While Omicron is impacting near term demand, were main optimistic about the spring and excited about the summer and beyond."

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United, the world's third-largest carrier by fleet size, said it expects revenue in the first quarter of 2022 to be off by as much as 25%, compared to the same period in 2019 when it generated close to $10 billion.

Several U.S. airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights in late December and early January due to employees becoming ill with COVID-19 and severe winter weather at some airports.

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