United Airlines posted a $600 million profit for the fourth quarter of 2023, down almost one-third year on year as expenses such as salaries and maintenance costs rose.

Adjusted to exclude special charges, unrealised losses on investments and income tax benefits on the adjustments, its profit came in at $664 million, still down 18% from last year’s $811 million.

For the full year, the Chicago-based carrier said profit climbed to $2.6 billion from $737 million in 2022. Adjusted full-year profit was $3.3 billion.

The airline’s full-year adjusted earnings per share (EPS) came in at $10.05, which fell within the target of $10-12 that executives set at the beginning of 2023.

“Our plans really came together in 2023,” United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby says. “Despite unpredictable headwinds, we delivered on our ambitious EPS target that few thought possible – and set new operational records for our customers.”

United Airlines Boeing 787

Source: United Airlines

United grew capacity by almost 15% in the fourth quarter against the same period of 2022

“Looking ahead, we expect these trends to continue and United is incredibly well-positioned to capitalise on them and to deliver on our short- and long-term financial targets,” he says.

During the fourth quarter, the company posted almost 10% higher revenue of $13.6 billion, over 2022 figures. The quarterly decline in profit can be attributed to a rise in expenses, including 28% higher salary costs, as well as higher maintenance costs. During the fourth quarter, expenses totalled $12.6 billion, up 14.6% from the same period last year.

Full-year revenue rose to $53.7 billion, up almost 20% over last year’s $45 billion.

During the final quarter of the year, capacity as measured in available seat miles rose 14.7% compared to in the fourth-quarter of 2022. During the full year, United’s capacity rose 17.5% over 2022.

Load factor during the quarter fell slightly to 82.3% from 85.2% a year ago.

The carrier ended the year with 1,358 aircraft in its fleet, 20 more than at the end of the previous year.

United will hold a webcast on 23 January to share more information about its fourth-quarter and full-year results.