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Blue skies for UAL as chief sees upturn

UAL, the company which owns US airline United Airlines, reported a slump in traffic and earnings yesterday, but said it was beginning to see signs that business travel could soon improve.<br /><br />The number of passengers flying with the carrier fell 2.9 per cent for the third quarter, it said, while revenue slumped 20.3 per cent to $4.43bn (&pound;2.22bn).<br /><br />&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no opportunity here for a full revenue recovery until we get premium cabin pricing back,&rdquo; said group president John Tague.<br /><br />&ldquo;But we are seeing progress, which is quite encouraging from where we were just three, four, five months ago,&rdquo; he added.<br /><br />Airlines around the world have been floundering as demand for premium seating &ndash; or first and business class &ndash; slumps on the back of big companies reigning in their spending. <br /><br />United Airlines is particularly geared towards business travel, so the downturn has been a huge blow. Carriers have been forced to slash the price of premium seats in an attempt to win back demand, but will need to put prices back up eventually.<br /><br />UAL lost $57m during the quarter, equal to 93 cents per share. <br /><br />Not including fuel hedges and issues related to accounting, the group said the loss equals 43 cents per share &ndash; beating the 94 cents expected by analysts.<br /><br />However, this third-quarter loss also was much smaller than the $792m loss during the same period last year that was driven by accounting for fuel hedges. <br /><br />United also reduced flying by 8.2 per cent compared to the same period last year.