America seems to think recovery mode has begun. United Airlines is not so sure. The airline is raising massive cash to withstand the worst.
United Airlines said on Monday it is securing a $5 billion loan backed by its MileagePlus loyalty program, further buffering its liquidity even as bookings hit by the coronavirus pandemic improve.
Chicago-based United said that if it also decides to a tap $4.5 billion government loan before Sept. 30, it would have $17 billion in total liquidity.
This would be enough to carry it through a potential second or third wave of COVID-19, senior executives said.
Under the loan deal structured by Goldman Sachs, Barclays Bank and Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, United will retain control over its loyalty program, valued at about $20 billion, the airline executives said.
Slots, gates and routes could be used as collateral for the government loan, the company said. Rival American Airlines has said it could use its loyalty program as collateral for a government loan.
United sees its daily cash burn slowing to $30 million per day by the end of the third quarter, and said it could reach break-even by the end of the year, as American and Delta Air Lines have forecast, depending on how demand evolves.
The airline said ticketed passenger revenue has jumped for June and July versus April, when U.S. passenger numbers reached a record low, but said July revenue would still be down between 82% and 88% from a year ago.
It still expects demand to be down on Oct. 1, when billions of dollars in government payroll aid for airline employees runs out.
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Photo credit: United Airlines is using its loyalty program to secure a loan. Pictured is a Boeing 737. 274624