United CEO worried about shutdown but impact not yet 'significant'

Key Points
  • United CEO Oscar Munoz said the impact from the partial government shutdown is not yet "significant."
  • Munoz's comments come a day after Delta's CEO said the shutdown is costing the airline $25 million this month.
  • The shutdown is delaying the launch of new planes and hurting some airline bookings.
A United Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet takes off at San Antonio International Airport in Texas.
Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on Wednesday said the airline is getting worried about the partial U.S. government shutdown as it drags on but added that the company isn't yet seeing a "significant" impact on bookings.

Munoz's comments come a day after the CEO of rival Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, said the shutdown that began Dec. 22 will cost the airline $25 million this month.

"There is some impact there," Munoz told CNBC's Phil LeBeau in an interview Wednesday. "It's not discernible and it's not significant. Clearly the longer this goes, of course there's going to be impact, and we do worry about that."

United, which reported strong profits and revenue after the market closed Tuesday, runs a hub out of Washington Dulles International Airport. Munoz said the airline provided a broader revenue growth estimate — between flat to up 3 percent — than usual because executives don't yet know the impact of the shutdown.

On Tuesday, Delta's Bastian said the airline is losing $25 million in revenue this month alone because fewer government employees and contractors are traveling.

Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The aviation industry has been among the most vocal in demanding an end to the shutdown, the result of an impasse between President Donald Trump and lawmakers over funding for a wall along the southern U.S. border.

Transportation Security Administration officers, air traffic controllers and federal safety inspectors are among the some 420,000 government employees who are deemed essential and have been ordered to work without a regular paycheck. Major airports in Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Washington, D.C., this week said they closed passenger screening lanes or checkpoints as more TSA officers than usual were absent.

Additionally, airlines need federal safety inspectors to debut new aircraft. Delta said it will likely delay its Jan. 31 debut of its brand-new Airbus A220, a plane it's using to court business travelers with bigger seats and windows. Southwest Airlines expects to delay the start of its first service to Hawaii that's still waiting on governmental approval.