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United Airlines forecasts quarterly loss on Boeing MAX 9 grounding



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines passenger jet taxis at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren/File Photo

By Rajesh Kumar Singh

CHICAGO (Reuters) -United Airlines Holdings on Monday forecast a wider-than-expected loss in the quarter through March due to the grounding of Boeing (NYSE:) 737 MAX 9 airplanes.

The Chicago-based carrier expects an adjusted loss in the range of 35 to 85 cents a share, assuming all MAX 9 planes remain grounded through the end of January. Analysts expected the company to report a quarterly loss of 21 cents a share.

The company, however, estimates an adjusted profit of $9-$11 per share in 2024. That compares with $9.58 per share expected by Wall Street analysts.

The U.S. aviation regulator this month grounded MAX 9 jets indefinitely for safety checks after a cabin panel fell off during an Alaska Airlines flight on Jan. 5, leaving a gaping hole in a jet full of passengers, necessitating an emergency landing.

United and Alaska together have 70% of the MAX 9 fleet and have been forced to cancel thousands of flights since the incident.

United did not say when its 79 grounded jets would be back in service. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has said MAX 9 planes would remain grounded until it was satisfied the jets were safe to return to service.

The FAA has also recommended airlines operating Boeing’s aircraft model 737-900ER to inspect door plugs to ensure that they are properly secured after some operators reported unspecified issues with bolts upon inspection. United has 136 of these jets in its fleet.

The company has already inspected two-thirds of the 737-900ER planes and has not found any problem, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. A United spokesperson confirmed the details.

The airline on Monday reported an adjusted profit of $2 a share in the fourth quarter, topping Wall Street estimates of $1.70 a share, on the back of strong holiday travel demand.

United will discuss the results on a call with analysts and investors on Tuesday morning.

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