United Continental on Monday reported sharply lower first-quarter earnings, but they still bested analyst expectations, and the airline vowed to remake its customer service after its rough treatment of a passenger stoked global outrage.
Net income for the period ending March 31 fell to US$96 million, a 69.3 percent plunge from levels a year earlier due to higher fuel and labor costs.
Revenues were up 2.7 percent to US$8.4 billion.
United, which has been under fire since ordering a customer forcibly removed from an overbooked Chicago flight last week, projected passenger revenue per seat mile would post its first positive growth in two years in the second quarter. The closely watched benchmark was flat in the first quarter.
“We saw positive trends in the revenue environment in the quarter and are optimistic about the year ahead,” company president Scott Kirby said in a statement.
Still, chief executive Oscar Munoz acknowledged much work remains to be done after the company’s violent removal of passenger David Dao from an overbooked flight prompted widespread public condemnation after a video of the battered Dao went viral.
“The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience and I take full responsibility,” Munoz said in a news release. “This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company and we are more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do.”
Munoz himself came in for heavy criticism for his response early in the crisis in which he appeared to put partial blame for the incident on the passenger, saying in a note to employees that he had “defied” authorities and “compounded” the incident.
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