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United Continental earnings: $1.23 per share, vs. expected EPS of $1.18

United Continental airline
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United Continental Holdings on Wednesday reported a first-quarter profit above analysts' expectations and said it would slow its growth plans because flight capacity across the industry has exceeded passenger demand, pushing down prices.

The No.3 U.S. airline by traffic posted adjusted first-quarter earnings per share of $1.23, compared to $1.52 a share in the year-earlier period. And revenue for the quarter came in at $8.2 billion, against the comparable year-ago figure of $8.61 billion.

Analysts had expected United Continental to report earnings of about $1.18 a share on $8.2 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

A collapse in oil prices continues to hurt demand for travel from energy center Houston, one of United's principal hubs. At the same time, a surge in flights from low-cost airlines such as Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines continues to keep U.S. domestic prices low, although rival Delta Air Lines said last week that it sees average fares starting to rise.

United said that in response to soft demand, it has reduced plans to add flight capacity in 2016 by 0.5 percentage points, meaning it will grow between 1 percent and 2 percent compared to a year ago.

It nonetheless expects passenger revenue as measured against flight capacity will decline between 6.5 percent and 8.5 percent in the second quarter, lower than some investors had expected. The closely watched financial measure fell 7.4 percent in the first quarter.

Wednesday morning, United added two new directors, former Orbitz CEO Barney Harford and Ed Shapiro, to its board as part of a settlement with activist investors PAR Capital Management and Altimeter Capital Management. Shapiro is a managing partner and portfolio manager at PAR.

The hedge funds own a combined 7.1 percent stake in the airline.

United also announced Wednesday that Robert Milton, former president and CEO of Air Canada, will become the non-executive chairman of the board.

—CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld contributed to this report.