United has announced its 2020 financial results, incurring a $7.1 billion net loss and marking one of its worst years on record.

The figure is only surpassed by 2005, when the Star Alliance carrier’s bankruptcy contributed to a $21 billion loss.

United, which saw passenger revenues plunge 70.2 per cent, is the second US carrier to report its earnings. Last week, Delta reported it had lost $12.4 billion for the year.

In the last three months ending December 2020, the airline saw a cash burn of $19 million per day. While it is an improvement over the $24 million per day cash burn in the third quarter, the industry outlook remains bleak.

Like its Atlanta-based rival, United expects travel demand to remain severely depressed for the first few months of 2021, with capacity down by at least 51 per cent compared to the year before.

The carrier said it has “high confidence” that it will fully recover and meet its earnings goal by 2023.

Scott Kirby, CEO at United Airlines, said:

“Aggressively managing the challenges of 2020 depended on our innovation and fast-paced decision making. But, the truth is that Covid-19 has changed United Airlines forever.

“The passion, teamwork and perseverance that the United team showed in 2020 is exactly what will help us build a new United Airlines that’s better, stronger and more profitable than ever.”