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United Airlines' Load Factor Increases Again in December

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United Continental Holdings’ (UAL - Free Report) wholly owned subsidiary, United Airlines, has yet again reported strong traffic figures. For December 2018, consolidated traffic — measured in revenue passenger miles (RPMs) — was 19.33 billion, up 6.9% from the year-ago figure.

Consolidated capacity (or available seat miles/ASMs) rose 6.4% on a year-over-year basis to 23.37 billion. Also, load factor (percentage of seats occupied by passengers) expanded 40 basis points (bps) to 82.7% as traffic growth outpaced capacity expansion. Notably, this is the carrier’s eighth consecutive month of load factor increase. The successive rise in load factor indicates the carrier’s efficiency and is a key catalyst for its profitability position.

Moreover, load factor climbed 120 bps at the end of 2018 with the carrier registering a 6.4% and 4.9% expansion in RPMS and ASMs, respectively.

Apart from solid traffic figures, the carrier’s expansion initiatives are encouraging. Last month, this Chicago, IL-based airline announced 11 new services from its hubs in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. The carrier will begin weekend operations to Colorado, Florida and Oregon. Additionally, it will introduce daily flights to Nova Scotia effective Jun 6. (Read more: United Airlines to Offer Extra Services From Key Hubs)

Zacks Rank & Other Key Picks

United Continental holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Some other top-ranked stocks in the same space are Azul SA AZUL, Allegiant Travel Company ALGT and Spirit Airlines, Inc. SAVE, each flaunting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Shares of Azul and Spirit Airlines have rallied more than 13% and 32%, respectively, in a year’s time. Meanwhile, Allegiant boasts an impressive earnings surprise history, having trumped the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the last four quarters, the average beat being 18.7%.

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