United Continental Holdings, Inc. 10-K 2011
Documents found in this filing:
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010
For the transition period from to
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12 (g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
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Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of Registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K.
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Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).
The aggregate market value of voting stock held by non-affiliates of United Continental Holdings, Inc. was $3,451,199,030 as of June 30, 2010. There is no market for United Air Lines, Inc. common stock or Continental Airlines, Inc. common stock.
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Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the issuers classes of common stock, as of February 15, 2011.
OMISSION OF CERTAIN INFORMATION
This combined Form 10-K is separately filed by United Continental Holdings, Inc., United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc.
United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc. meet the conditions set forth in General Instruction I(1)(a) and (b) of Form 10-K and are therefore filing this form with the reduced disclosure format allowed under that General Instruction.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Information required by Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 of Part III of this Form 10-K are incorporated by reference for United Continental Holdings, Inc. from its definitive proxy statement for its 2011 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.
United Air Lines, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies
Continental Airlines, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies
Report on Form 10-K
For the Year Ended December 31, 2010
This Form 10-K contains various forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Forward-looking statements represent the Companys expectations and beliefs concerning future events, based on information available to the Company on the date of the filing of this Form 10-K, and are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those referenced in the forward-looking statements are listed in Item 1A, Risk Factors and in Item 7, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. The Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update or revise any of the forward-looking statements, whether in response to new information, unforeseen events, changed circumstances or otherwise, except as required by applicable law.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS.
United Continental Holdings, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, UAL) is a holding company and its principal, wholly-owned subsidiaries are United Air Lines, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, United) and, effective October 1, 2010, Continental Airlines, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, Continental). This combined Annual Report on Form 10-K is separately filed by each of United Continental Holdings, Inc., United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc. Each registrant hereto is filing on its own behalf all of the information contained in this report that relates to such registrant. Each registrant hereto is not filing any information that does not relate to such registrant, and therefore makes no representation as to any such information.
We sometimes use the words we, our, us, and the Company in this Form 10-K for disclosures that relate to all of UAL, United and Continental. As UAL consolidates United and Continental beginning October 1, 2010 for financial statement purposes, disclosures that relate to United activities also apply to UAL. Effective October 1, 2010, disclosures that related to Continental activities also apply to UAL. When appropriate, UAL, United and Continental are named specifically for their related activities and disclosures. This report uses Continental Successor to refer to Continental subsequent to the Merger (defined below) and Continental Predecessor to refer to Continental prior to the Merger.
UAL was incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware on December 30, 1968. Our world headquarters is located at 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60601. The mailing address is P.O. Box 66919, Chicago, Illinois 60666 (telephone number (312) 997-8000). The Companys web address is www.unitedcontinentalholdings.com. The information contained on or connected to the Companys web address is not incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K and should not be considered part of this or any other report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Through this website, the Companys filings with the SEC, including annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and all amendments to those reports, are accessible without charge as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. Such filings are also available on the SECs website at www.sec.gov. Each of UAL and Continental has a code of ethics for directors, officers and employees. The codes serve as a Code of Ethics as defined by SEC regulations, and as a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics under the NYSEs Listed Company Manual. The codes are available on the Companys website. Waivers granted to certain officers from compliance with or future amendments to these codes, including the adoption of a code of ethics for the combined company, will be disclosed on the Companys website in accordance with Item 5.05 of Form 8-K.
On May 2, 2010, UAL Corporation, Continental, and JT Merger Sub Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAL Corporation, entered into an Agreement and Plan of Merger providing for a merger of equals business combination. On October 1, 2010, JT Merger Sub Inc. merged with and into Continental, with Continental surviving as a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAL Corporation (the Merger). Upon closing of the Merger, UAL Corporation became the parent company of both Continental and United and UAL Corporations name was changed to United Continental Holdings, Inc. Until the operational integration of United and Continental is complete, United and Continental will continue to operate as separate airlines. UALs consolidated financial statements include the results of operations of Continental and its subsidiaries for the period subsequent to October 1, 2010.
UAL expects the Merger to deliver $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies on a run-rate basis by 2013, including between $800 million and $900 million of incremental annual revenues, in large part from expanded customer options resulting from the greater scope and scale of the network, fleet optimization and additional international service enabled by the broader network of the combined company. UAL expects the combined company to realize between $200 million and $300 million of net cost synergies on a run-rate basis by 2013. We also expect that the combined company will incur substantial expenses in connection with the Merger. There are many factors that could affect the total amount or the timing of those expenses, and many of the expenses that will be incurred are, by their nature, difficult to estimate accurately. In addition to transactional merger-related charges, UAL has incurred and expects to incur additional material merger and integration-related charges to combine the operations of United and Continental. See Notes 1 and 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 and Item 1A, Risk Factors, for additional information on the Merger.
United and Continental transport people and cargo through their mainline operations, which utilize full-sized jet aircraft, and regional operations, which utilize smaller aircraft that are operated under contract by United Express, Continental Express and Continental Connection carriers. See Item 2, Properties, for a description of the Companys mainline and regional aircraft.
With key global air rights in the U.S., Pacific region, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, UAL has the worlds most comprehensive global route network. UAL, through United and Continental and their regional carriers, operates approximately 5,800 flights a day to more than 375 U.S. domestic and international destinations from the Companys hubs at A.B. Won Pat International Airport (Guam), Chicago OHare International Airport (Chicago OHare), Denver International Airport (Denver), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Houston Bush), Hopkins International Airport (Cleveland Hopkins), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Newark Liberty International Airport (New York Liberty), San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Washington Dulles International Airport (Washington Dulles). Including its regional operations, United operates approximately 3,350 flights a day to more than 235 U.S. domestic and international destinations based on its annual flight schedule as of January 1, 2011. Including its regional operations, Continental operates approximately 2,500 flights a day to more than 280 U.S. domestic and international destinations based on its annual flight schedule as of January 1, 2011.
All of the Companys domestic hubs are located in large business and population centers, contributing to a large amount of origin and destination traffic. Our hub and spoke system allows us to transport passengers between a large number of destinations with substantially more frequent service than if each route were served directly. Our hub system also allows us to add service to a new destination from a large number of cities using only one or a limited number of aircraft. As discussed under Alliances below, United and Continental are both members of Star Alliance, the worlds largest airline network.
The Company offers a different set of services to target distinct customer groups. This strategy of market and product segmentation is intended to optimize margins and costs, and is focused on delivering an improved experience for all customers and a best-in-class experience for premium customers. Some of these services include:
Regional Carriers. The Company has contractual relationships with various regional carriers to provide regional jet and turboprop service branded as United Express, Continental Express and Continental Connection. These regional operations are an extension of the Companys mainline network. This regional service complements our operations by carrying traffic that connects to our mainline service and allows more frequent flights to smaller cities than could be provided economically with full sized mainline jet aircraft. Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Chautauqua Airlines, Colgan Airlines (Colgan), CommutAir Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, GoJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Shuttle America, SkyWest Airlines (SkyWest) and Trans States Airlines
(Trans States) are all regional carriers, most of which operate under capacity purchase agreements with United and/or Continental. Under these agreements, the Company pays the regional carriers contractually-agreed fees (carrier-controlled costs) for operating these flights plus a variable reimbursement (incentive payment for superior operational performance) based on agreed performance metrics. The carrier-controlled costs are based on specific rates for various operating expenses of the regional carriers, such as crew expenses, maintenance and aircraft ownership, some of which are multiplied by specific operating statistics (e.g., block hours, departures) while others are fixed monthly amounts. Under these capacity purchase agreements, the Company is responsible for all fuel costs incurred as well as landing fees, facilities rent and other costs, which are passed through without any markup. In return, the regional carriers operate this capacity on schedules determined by the Company. The Company also determines pricing, revenues and inventory levels and assumes the inventory and distribution risk for the available seats.
While the regional carriers operating under capacity purchase agreements comprise more than 95% of all regional flights, the Company also has prorate agreements with Hyannis Air Service, Inc. (Cape Air), Colgan, Gulfstream International Airlines (Gulfstream), SkyWest and Trans States. Under prorate agreements, the Company and its prorate partners agree to divide revenue collected from each passenger according to a formula, while both the Company and the prorate partners are individually responsible for their own costs of operations. Unlike capacity purchase agreements, under a prorate agreement, the regional carrier retains the control and risk of scheduling, market selection, local seat pricing and inventory for its flights, although the carriers may coordinate schedules to maximize connections.
Financial information on the Companys operating revenues by geographic regions, as reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation (the DOT), can be found in Item 7, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and Note 10 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report.
Alliances. United and Continental have a number of bilateral and multilateral alliances with other airlines, which enhance travel options for customers seeking access to markets that United and Continental do not serve directly. These marketing alliances typically include one or more of the following features: joint loyalty program participation; codesharing of flight operations (whereby seats on one carriers selected flights can be marketed under the brand name of another carrier); coordination of reservations, ticketing, passenger check-in, baggage handling and flight schedules; and other resource-sharing activities.
United and Continental are members of Star Alliance, a global integrated airline network co-founded by United in 1997 and the most comprehensive airline alliance in the world. As of January 1, 2011, Star Alliance carriers served 1,160 airports in 181 countries with 21,000 daily flights. Current Star Alliance partners, in addition to United and Continental, are Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Blue1, bmi, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, Swiss International Air Lines, TAM, TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines and US Airways. Air India, Avianca-TACA and Copa Airlines have been announced as future Star Alliance members.
In September 2010, United, Continental and Air Canada entered into a memorandum of understanding to establish a revenue-sharing, transborder joint venture, subject to the execution of a definitive joint venture agreement, completion of necessary filings, receipt of regulatory approvals and finalization of documentation. United, Continental and Air Canada have antitrust immunity from the DOT for transborder coordination. The joint venture is currently under review by the Canadian Competition Bureau.
In November 2010, United, Continental and All Nippon Airways received antitrust immunity approval from the Japanese government and the DOT enabling the carriers to establish a trans-Pacific joint venture to integrate the services they operate between the United States and Japan, and other destinations in Asia, and to derive potentially significant benefits from coordinated scheduling, pricing, sales and inventory management. The integration of services will also allow the three carriers to offer passengers highly competitive flight schedules, fares and services. We expect this joint venture to commence in the second quarter of 2011.
In December 2010, pursuant to antitrust immunity approval granted by the DOT, United, Continental, Air Canada and Lufthansa executed a joint venture agreement covering trans-Atlantic routes. The joint venture is expected to deliver highly competitive flight schedules, fares and service. The European Commission, which has been conducting a parallel review of the competitive effects of the joint venture similar to the DOTs review, has not yet completed its review. The joint venture has a revenue-sharing structure that results in payments among participants based on a formula that compares current period unit revenue performance on trans-Atlantic routes to an historic period, or baseline, which is reset annually. The payments are calculated on a quarterly basis and subject to a cap. The revenue sharing aspects of this joint venture were retroactive to January 2010. See Industry Regulation below.
United and Continental have independent marketing agreements with other air carriers including Aer Lingus, Cape Air, Colgan, Copa Airlines, Emirates, EVA Airways Corporation, Great Lakes Aviation, Gulfstream, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, Qatar Airways, TACA Group, and Virgin Atlantic Airways. In addition, Continental has a train-to-plane alliance with Amtrak.
Fuel. Aircraft fuel has been the Companys single largest operating expense for the last several years. The table below summarizes UALs fuel cost data, excluding hedge impacts, during the last three years.
The availability and price of aircraft fuel significantly affects the Companys operations, results of operations and financial position. To ensure adequate supplies of fuel and to obtain a measure of control over prices in the short term, the Company arranges to have fuel shipped on major pipelines and stored close to its major hub locations. To protect against increases in the prices of fuel, the Company routinely hedges a portion of its future fuel requirements, provided the hedges are expected to be cost effective. The Company uses fixed price swaps, purchased call options, collars or other such commonly used financial hedge instruments based on aircraft fuel or closely related commodities like heating oil and crude oil. The Company strives to maintain fuel hedging levels and exposure generally consistent with industry standards so that the Companys fuel cost is not disproportionate to the fuel costs of its major competitors.
Loyalty Programs. Uniteds Mileage Plus program and Continentals OnePass program build customer loyalty by offering awards and services to program participants. Members in these programs can earn mileage credit for flights on United, United Express, Continental, Continental Express and Continental Connection, members of Star Alliance and certain other airlines that participate in the programs. Miles can also be earned by purchasing the goods and services of our non-airline partners, such as retail merchants, hotels, car rental companies and credit card issuers. Mileage credits can be redeemed for free, discounted or upgraded travel and non-travel awards. At December 31, 2010, United and Continental had more than 58 million and 41 million members, respectively, enrolled in their programs.
Both of the Companys loyalty programs have co-brand agreements with Chase Bank USA, N.A. (Chase). Under these agreements, loyalty program members accrue frequent flyer miles for making purchases using Mileage Plus and OnePass credit cards issued by Chase. These co-brand agreements provide for joint marketing of the credit card programs and provide Chase with other benefits such as permission to market to the Companys customer database.
In 2010, 2.4 million Mileage Plus travel awards were used on United, as compared to 2.1 million and 2.3 million in 2009 and 2008, respectively. These awards represented 7.5%, 8.3% and 9.1% of Uniteds total revenue passenger miles in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. Also in 2010, 1.6 million OnePass travel awards were used on Continental, as compared to 1.3 million and 1.6 million in 2009 and 2008, respectively. These awards represented 5.7%, 5.9% and 8.4% of Continentals total revenue passenger miles in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively.
In addition, Mileage Plus members redeemed miles for approximately 975,000 non-United travel awards in 2010 as compared to 885,000 in 2009. Non-United travel awards include Red Carpet Club memberships, car and hotel awards, merchandise and travel solely on another air carrier, among others. The increase in the number of non-United travel awards redeemed in 2010 was due to the expansion of the merchandise programs and the launch of a new car and hotel award program in the fourth quarter of 2009. Total miles redeemed for travel on United in 2010, including class-of-service upgrades, represented 86% of the total miles redeemed (for both completed and future travel).
Distribution Channels. The majority of the Companys airline seat inventory continues to be distributed through the traditional channels of travel agencies and global distribution systems (GDS). The growing use of internal websites, such as www.united.com and www.continental.com, alternative distribution systems and new GDS entrants provides the Company with an opportunity to de-commoditize its services, better control its content, make more targeted offerings, retain its customers, enhance its brand and lower its ticket distribution costs. To encourage customer use of lower-cost channels and capitalize on these cost-saving opportunities, the Company will continue to expand the capabilities of its websites and explore alternative distribution channels.
Economic Conditions. The Companys costs and revenues are highly correlated to the economic health and growth of the United States and the global markets the Company serves. The Companys financial performance improved significantly in 2010 consistent with the improvement in global economic conditions. Similarly, the Companys results were adversely impacted in 2009 and 2008 as the global recession experienced over this period resulted in significant declines in industry passenger demand, accompanied by a reduction in fare levels. The drop in demand was greater among business and premium cabin travelers, as corporations significantly reduced their spending on business travel. As discussed further in Item 1A, Risk Factors, and in Item 7, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, adverse economic conditions have had, and in the future may have, negative impacts on passenger demand and revenue.
Domestic Competition. The domestic airline industry is highly competitive and dynamic. In domestic markets, new and existing U.S. carriers are generally free to initiate service between any two points within the United States. The Companys competitors consist primarily of other airlines and, to a lesser extent, other forms of transportation and emerging technological substitutes such as videoconferencing. Competition can be direct, in the form of another carrier flying the exact non-stop route, or indirect where a carrier serves the same two cities non-stop from an alternative airport in that city, or via an itinerary requiring a connection at another airport.
Carriers that operate as low cost carriers or that have lower cost structures achieved through reorganization may be more competitive with the rest of the industry, resulting in lower fares for such carriers passengers with a potential negative impact on the Companys revenues. In addition, future airline mergers or acquisitions may enable airlines to improve their revenue and cost performance relative to peers and thus enhance their competitive position within the industry.
Domestic pricing decisions are largely affected by the need to be competitive with other U.S. airlines. Fare discounting by competitors has historically had a negative effect on our financial results because we often find it necessary to match competitors fares to maintain passenger traffic. Attempts by the Company and other airlines to raise fares often fail due to a lack of competitive matching.
International Competition. In international markets the Company competes not only with U.S. airlines, but also with foreign carriers. Competition on specified international routes is subject to varying degrees of governmental regulations. The United States and European Union (EU) agreement in 2008 to reduce restrictions on flight operations between the two regions has increased competition for Uniteds transatlantic network from both U.S. and European airlines. In our Pacific operations, competition is expected to increase as the governments of the United States and China recently approved additional U.S. and Chinese airlines to fly new routes between the two countries, although the commencement of some new services to China was postponed due to the weak global economy. Competition in the Pacific is also expected to increase as a result of the execution of the open skies agreement between the United States and Japan in October 2010. See Industry Regulation, below. Competition in the Pacific may also increase if Japan Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy in January 2010 and received reorganization plan approval in November 2010, becomes a stronger competitor in the region as a result of its restructuring. Part of the Companys ability to compete successfully with non-U.S. carriers on international routes is its ability to generate traffic from and to the entire U.S. via its integrated domestic route network. Foreign carriers are currently prohibited by U.S. law from carrying local passengers between two points in the U.S. and the Company experiences comparable restrictions in many foreign countries. In addition, U.S. carriers are often constrained from carrying passengers to points beyond designated international gateway cities due to limitations in air service agreements and restrictions imposed unilaterally by foreign governments. To compensate partially for these structural limitations, U.S. and foreign carriers have entered into alliances and marketing arrangements that allow these carriers to exchange traffic between each others flights and route networks. See Alliances, above, for further information.
Seasonality. The air travel business is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Historically, second and third quarter revenues, which reflect higher travel demand, are better than first and fourth quarter revenues, which reflect lower travel demand.
General. All carriers engaged in air transportation in the U.S. are subject to regulation by the DOT. Among its responsibilities, the DOT issues certificates of public convenience and necessity for domestic air transportation; no air carrier, unless exempted, may provide air transportation without a DOT certificate of public convenience and necessity. The DOT also grants international route authorities, approves international codeshare arrangements, regulates methods of competition and enforces certain consumer protection statutes and regulations, such as those dealing with advertising, denied boarding compensation and baggage liability.
Airlines are also regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a division of the DOT, primarily in the areas of flight operations, maintenance and other safety and technical matters. The FAA has authority to issue air carrier operating certificates and aircraft airworthiness certificates, prescribe maintenance procedures and regulate pilot and other employee training, among other responsibilities. From time to time, the FAA issues rules that require air carriers to take certain actions, such as the inspection or modification of aircraft and other equipment, that may cause the Company to incur substantial, unplanned expenses. The airline industry is also subject to various other federal laws and regulations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has jurisdiction over virtually all aspects of civil aviation security. See Legislation, below. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has jurisdiction over certain airline competition matters. The U.S. Postal Service has authority over certain aspects of the transportation of mail. Labor relations in the airline industry are generally governed by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The Company is also subject to inquiries by the DOT, FAA, DOJ and other U.S. and international regulatory bodies.
Airport Access. Access to landing and take-off rights, or slots, at several major U.S. airports and many foreign airports served by United and Continental are, or recently have been, subject to government regulation. Federally mandated domestic slot restrictions currently apply at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C.
(Washington Reagan), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LaGuardia) and New York Liberty. In addition, to address concerns about airport congestion, the FAA has designated certain airports, including New York Liberty, JFK and LaGuardia as high density traffic airports and has imposed operating restrictions at these three airports, which may include capacity reductions. Additional restrictions on airline routes and takeoff and landing slots may be proposed in the future that could affect the Companys rights of ownership and transfer.
Legislation. The airline industry is subject to legislative activity that may have an impact on operations and costs. In addition to federal, state and local taxes and fees that the Company is currently subject to, proposed taxes and fees are currently pending that may increase the Companys operating costs if imposed on the Company. Congress is currently attempting to pass comprehensive reauthorization legislation to impose a new funding structure and make other changes to FAA operations. Past aviation reauthorization bills have affected a wide range of areas of interest to the industry, including air traffic control operations, capacity control issues, airline competition issues, aircraft and airport technology requirements, safety issues, taxes, fees and other funding sources. Congress may also pass other legislation that could increase labor and operating costs. Climate change legislation, which would regulate greenhouse gas emissions, is also likely to be a significant area of legislative and regulatory focus and could adversely impact the Companys costs. See Environmental Regulation, below.
In April 2010, the DOT implemented a new rule requiring certain air carriers, including United and Continental, to adopt contingency plans for tarmac delays exceeding three hours at most U.S. airports. A carriers failure to meet certain service performance criteria under the rule could subject it to substantial civil penalties. The DOT has also proceeded with other regulatory changes in this area, including proposals regarding treatment of and payments to passengers involuntarily denied boarding, domestic baggage liability and airline scheduling practices. Additionally, since September 11, 2001, aviation security has been, and continues to be, a subject of frequent legislative and regulatory action, requiring changes to the Companys security processes and frequently increasing the cost of its security procedures.
In September 2010, the FAA proposed changes to flight crew duty and rest requirements for all U.S. airlines operating under part 121 of FAA regulations. These changes, if adopted by the FAA as initially proposed, would likely require us to make changes to our flight operations that could materially increase our costs. Continental, United and other airlines and trade associations have submitted comments to the FAA to reduce these proposed burdens substantially, but it is unclear at this time whether the FAA will adopt them in its final rule.
General. International air transportation is subject to extensive government regulation. In connection with the Companys international services, the Company is regulated by both the U.S. government and the governments of the foreign countries United and Continental serve. In addition, the availability of international routes to U.S. carriers is regulated by aviation agreements between the U.S. and foreign governments, and in some cases, fares and schedules require the approval of the DOT and/or the relevant foreign governments.
Airport Access. Historically, access to foreign markets has been tightly controlled through bilateral agreements between the U.S. and each foreign country involved. These agreements regulate the markets served, the number of carriers allowed to serve each market and the frequency of carriers flights. Since the early 1990s, the U.S. has pursued a policy of open skies (meaning all U.S.-flag carriers have access to the destination), under which the U.S. government has negotiated a number of bilateral agreements allowing unrestricted access between U.S. and foreign markets. Currently, there are more than 100 open skies agreements in effect. Additionally, many of the airports that United and Continental serve in Europe, Asia and Latin America, maintain slot controls. A large number of these are restrictive due to congestion at these airports. London Heathrow International Airport (London Heathrow), Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport, Shanghai Pudong
International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, Sao Paulo Guarhulos International Airport and Tokyo Narita International Airport are among the most restrictive airports due to capacity limitations. United and Continental have significant operations at these locations.
The Companys ability to serve some foreign markets and expand into certain others is limited by the absence of aviation agreements between the U.S. government and the relevant foreign governments. Shifts in U.S. or foreign government aviation policies may lead to the alteration or termination of air service agreements. Depending on the nature of any such change, the value of the Companys international route authorities and slot rights may be materially enhanced or diminished.
The U.S./EU open skies agreement provides U.S. and EU carriers with expansive rights, including the right to operate between any point in the United States and the EU. The agreement has no direct impact on airport slot rights or airport facilities nor does it provide for a reallocation of existing slots or facilities, including those at London Heathrow. Because of the diverse nature of potential impacts on the Companys business, the overall future impact of the U.S./EU agreement on the Companys business cannot be predicted with certainty.
In October 2010, the open skies agreement between the United States and Japan became effective, enabling U.S. or Japanese carriers to fly between any point in the United States and any point in Japan and, in the case of U.S. carriers, beyond Japan to points in other countries the carrier is authorized to serve. The agreement eliminates the restrictions on the number of frequencies carriers can operate and requires governments in both the United States and Japan to concur before taking action to regulate a carriers fares or rates.
General. The airline industry is subject to increasingly stringent federal, state, local and international environmental laws and regulations concerning emissions to the air, discharges to surface and subsurface waters, safe drinking water, aircraft noise, and the management of hazardous substances, oils and waste materials. Areas of developing regulations include new regulations surrounding the emission of greenhouse gases (discussed further below), State of California rule-makings regarding air emissions from ground support equipment, and a federal rule-making concerning the discharge of deicing fluid.
Climate Change. There are certain laws and regulations relating to climate change that apply to the Company, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) (which is subject to legal challenge), environmental taxes for certain international flights (including the United Kingdoms Air Passenger Duty and Germanys departure ticket tax), limited greenhouse gas reporting requirements, and the State of Californias cap and trade regulations (which impacts Uniteds San Francisco Maintenance Center and co-located cogeneration plant). In addition, there are land-use planning laws that could apply to airport expansion projects, requiring a review of greenhouse gas emissions, and could affect airlines in certain circumstances.
In 2009, the EU issued a directive to member states to include aviation in its greenhouse gas ETS, which required the Company to begin monitoring emissions of carbon dioxide effective January 1, 2010. Beginning in 2012, the ETS would require the Company to ensure it has obtained sufficient emission allowances equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from flights to and from EU member states with such allowances then surrendered on an annual basis to the government. In December 2009, the Air Transportation Association, joined by United, Continental and American Airlines, filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdom challenging regulations that transpose into UK law the EU ETS as applied to U.S. carriers. In addition, non-EU countries are considering filing a formal challenge before the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with respect to the EUs inclusion of non-EU carriers. If the scheme is found to be valid, it could significantly increase the cost of carriers operating in the EU (by requiring the purchase of carbon credits), although the precise cost to the Company is difficult to calculate with certainty due to a number of variables. Those potential costs will depend, among other things, on the baseline carbon emissions yet to be determined by the EU, the Companys future carbon emissions from flights to and from the EU, and the price of carbon credits.
In addition to current regulatory programs, there is also the potential for additional climate change regulation. In 2010, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that current and projected concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare. Although legal challenges have been initiated and legislative proposals are expected that may invalidate this endangerment finding (and/or the EPAs assertion of authority under the Clean Air Act), the finding could result in EPA regulation of commercial aircraft emissions.
Further, the ICAO recently signaled through an ICAO Assembly Resolution that it will be developing a regulatory scheme for aviation greenhouse gas emissions. There could be other regulatory actions taken in the future by the U.S. government, state governments within the U.S., foreign governments, or through a separate United Nations global climate change treaty to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases by the aviation industry, which could result in multiple schemes applying to the same emissions. The precise nature of any such requirements and their applicability to the Company are difficult to predict, but the financial impact to the Company and the aviation industry would likely be adverse and could be significant, including the potential for increased fuel costs, carbon taxes or fees, or a requirement to purchase carbon credits.
Other Environmental Matters. In addition, the DOT allows local airport authorities to implement procedures designed to abate special noise problems, provided those procedures do not unreasonably interfere with interstate or foreign commerce or the national transportation system and do not conflict with federal law. Some U.S. and foreign airports, including airports located in certain of our hub cities, have established airport restrictions to limit noise, including restrictions on aircraft types to be used and limits on the number and scheduling of hourly or daily operations. In some instances, these restrictions have caused curtailments in services or increased operating costs, and could limit our ability to expand our operations at the affected airports.
The airline industry is also subject to other environmental laws and regulations that require the Company to remediate soil or groundwater to meet certain objectives and which may require significant expenditures. Under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as Superfund, and similar environmental cleanup laws, generators of waste materials and owners or operators of facilities can be subject to liability for investigation and remediation costs at locations that have been identified as requiring response actions. The Company also conducts voluntary environmental assessment and remediation actions. Environmental cleanup obligations can arise from, among other circumstances, the operation of aircraft fueling facilities and primarily involve airport sites. Future costs associated with these activities are currently not expected to have a material adverse effect on the Companys business.
As of December 31, 2010, UAL, including its subsidiaries, had approximately 86,000 active employees. Approximately 72% of UALs employees were represented by various U.S. labor organizations as of December 31, 2010. As of December 31, 2010, United had approximately 46,000 active employees and Continental had approximately 40,000 active employees. The following table reflects the Companys employee groups, number of employees per employee group, representative union for each of Uniteds and Continentals employee groups, and amendable date for each employee groups collective bargaining agreement:
Collective bargaining agreements are negotiated under the RLA, which governs labor relations in the air transportation industry. Such agreements typically do not contain an expiration date and instead specify an amendable date, upon which the contract is considered open for amendment. Contracts remain in effect while new agreements are negotiated. During the negotiation period, both the Company and the negotiating union are required to maintain the status quo.
The process for integrating the labor groups of United and Continental is governed by a combination of the RLA, the McCaskill-Bond Amendment, and where applicable, the existing provisions of Uniteds and Continentals collective bargaining agreements and union policies. Under the RLA, the National Mediation Board (NMB) has exclusive authority to resolve union representation disputes arising out of airline mergers. Under the McCaskill-Bond Amendment, fair and equitable integration of seniority lists is required, including arbitration where the interested parties cannot reach a consensual agreement. Pending operational integration, the Company will apply the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreements unless other terms have been negotiated.
United has been in negotiations for amended collective bargaining agreements with all of its unions since 2009. Consistent with commitments contained in its current labor contracts, United filed for mediation assistance in conjunction with four of its six unions: ALPA, AFA, IAM and PAFCA. While the labor contract with the Teamsters also contemplates filing for mediation, the parties agreed to continue in direct negotiations. The current contract with the IFPTE does not stipulate filing for mediation.
In March 2010, Continental reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract with the union that represents its dispatchers, which was ratified in April 2010. In September 2010, Continental reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with the union that represents its aircraft maintenance technicians and related employees, which was ratified in November 2010. Continental negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with the Teamsters covering its fleet service employees in November 2010 which was ratified in December 2010. In January 2011, Continental reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract with the union that represents its flight attendants. The agreement is scheduled for a ratification vote, the results of which are expected to be announced on or around February 26, 2011.
After the Companys May 2010 merger announcement, ALPA opted to suspend negotiations at both United and Continental to focus on joint negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement that would apply to the combined company. In July 2010, United and Continental reached agreement with ALPA on a Transition and Process Agreement that provides a framework for conducting pilot operations for the two employee groups until the parties reach agreement on a joint collective bargaining agreement and the carriers obtain a single operating certificate. In August 2010, United and Continental began joint negotiations with ALPA and those negotiations are presently ongoing. In December 2010, ALPA and the Company jointly applied to the NMB for mediation assistance for pilots and flight instructors.
In January 2011, the IAM filed an application seeking single-carrier findings by the NMB for purposes of union representation covering fleet service employees at Continental and ramp service employees at United. Also in January 2011, the AFA announced that it had filed a similar request with the NMB for purposes of union representation for United and Continental flight attendants. The Company anticipates that other applications will be filed by various unions covering smaller groups of employees. If the NMB determines that United and Continental are considered a single carrier, the relevant employees may vote with respect to union representation. Until elections occur, the incumbent unions will continue to represent those employee groups who are currently represented.
The outcome of these labor negotiations may materially impact the Companys future financial results. However, the Company is unable at this time to assess the timing or magnitude of such impact, if any.
The following risk factors should be read carefully when evaluating the Companys business and the forward-looking statements contained in this report and other statements the Company or its representatives make from time to time. Any of the following risks could materially adversely affect the Companys business, operating results, financial condition and the actual outcome of matters as to which forward-looking statements are made in this report.
The Merger may present certain material risks to the Companys business and operations.
The Merger, described in Item 1, Business, may present certain risks to the Companys business and operations including, among other things, risks that:
Accordingly, there can be no assurance that the Merger will result in the realization of the full benefits of synergies, innovation and operational efficiencies that we currently expect, that these benefits will be achieved within the anticipated timeframe or that we will be able to fully and accurately measure any such synergies.
Certain of the Companys financing agreements have covenants that impose operating and financial restrictions on the Company and its subsidiaries. The Company may be unable to continue to comply with the covenants in these agreements. A failure to comply with these covenants could result in the accelerated maturity of debt obligations, which could materially and adversely affect the Companys liquidity.
Uniteds Amended and Restated Revolving Credit, Term Loan and Guaranty Agreement, dated as of February 2, 2007 (the Amended Credit Facility), the indenture governing Continentals 6.75% Senior Secured Notes due 2015 (the 6.75% Notes) and the indentures governing Uniteds 9.875% Senior Secured Notes due 2013 and 12.0% Senior Second Lien Notes due 2013 (the United Senior Notes, and together with the 6.75% Notes, the Senior Notes) impose certain operating and financial covenants, as applicable, on the Company, on United and its material subsidiaries, or on Continental and its subsidiaries.
Among other covenants, the Amended Credit Facility requires UAL, United and certain of Uniteds material subsidiaries who are guarantors under the Amended Credit Facility to maintain a minimum unrestricted cash balance (as defined in the Amended Credit Facility) of $1.0 billion at all times; a minimum ratio of collateral value to debt obligations (that may increase if a specified dollar value of the route collateral is released); and a minimum fixed charge coverage ratio of 1.5 to 1.0 for twelve month periods measured at the end of each calendar quarter.
Among other covenants, the indentures governing the Senior Notes require the issuer to maintain a minimum ratio of collateral value to debt obligations. If the value of the collateral underlying that issuers Senior Notes declines such that the issuer no longer maintains the minimum required ratio of collateral value to debt obligations, the issuer may be required to pay additional interest at the rate of 2% per annum, provide additional collateral to secure the noteholders lien or repay a portion of the Senior Notes.
The Companys ability to comply with the covenants in the Amended Credit Facility and the indentures governing the Senior Notes may be affected by events beyond its control, including the overall industry revenue environment and the level of fuel costs, and the Company may be required to seek waivers or amendments of covenants, repay all or a portion of the debt or find alternative sources of financing. The Company cannot provide assurance that such waivers, amendments or alternative financing could be obtained or, if obtained, would be on terms acceptable to the Company.
A breach of certain of the covenants or restrictions contained in the Amended Credit Facility or indentures governing the Senior Notes could result in a default and a subsequent acceleration of the applicable debt obligations. In addition, the indentures governing the United Senior Notes contain a cross-acceleration provision pursuant to which a default resulting in the acceleration of indebtedness under the Amended Credit Facility would result in a default under such indentures. A default under these indentures could allow holders of the United Senior Notes to accelerate the maturity of the obligations in these indentures.
See Note 14 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for further discussion of our operating and financial covenants under certain of the Companys financing agreements.
The Company may be unable to continue to comply with certain covenants in agreements with financial institutions that process customer credit card transactions, which, if not complied with, could materially and adversely affect the Companys liquidity.
United and Continental have agreements with financial institutions that process customer credit card transactions for the sale of air travel and other services. Under certain of Uniteds and Continentals credit card processing agreements, the financial institutions either require, or under certain circumstances have the right to require, that United and Continental maintain a reserve equal to a portion of advance ticket sales that have been processed by that financial institution, but for which United and Continental have not yet provided the air transportation (referred to as relevant advance ticket sales).
Uniteds credit card processing agreement with Paymentech and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (JPMorgan Chase) contains a cash reserve requirement, determined based on the amount of unrestricted cash held by United as defined under the Amended Credit Facility. If Uniteds unrestricted cash balance is at or more than $2.5 billion as of any calendar month-end measurement date, its required reserve will remain at $25 million. However, if Uniteds unrestricted cash balance is less than $2.5 billion or certain lower minimum cash amounts, its required reserve will increase to stated percentages of relevant advance ticket sales that could be significant. Based on Uniteds December 31, 2010 unrestricted cash balance, United was not required to provide cash collateral above the current $25 million reserve balance.
Under Uniteds credit card processing agreement with American Express, in addition to certain other risk protections provided to American Express, United is required to provide reserves based primarily on its unrestricted cash balance and net current exposure as of any calendar month-end measurement date with Uniteds required reserves increasing to stated percentages of net current exposure that could be significant as Uniteds unrestricted cash balance falls below certain minimum cash amounts. The agreement with American Express permits United to provide certain replacement collateral in lieu of cash collateral, as long as Uniteds unrestricted cash is above $1.35 billion. Such replacement collateral may be pledged for any amount of the required reserve up to the full amount thereof, with the stated value of such collateral determined according to the agreement. Replacement collateral may be comprised of aircraft, slots and routes, real estate or other collateral as agreed between the parties. Based on Uniteds unrestricted cash balance at December 31, 2010, United was not required to provide any reserves under this agreement.
Continentals credit card processing agreement with JPMorgan Chase and affiliates of JPMorgan Chase contains financial covenants that require, among other things, that Continental post additional cash collateral if it fails to maintain (1) a minimum level of Continentals unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, (2) a minimum ratio of Continentals unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments
to current liabilities of 0.25 to 1.0 or (3) a minimum senior unsecured debt rating for Continental of at least Caa3 and CCC- from Moodys and Standard & Poors, respectively. If a covenant trigger under the JPMorgan Chase processing agreement results in Continentals posting additional collateral under that agreement, Continental will also be required to post additional collateral under its credit card processing agreement with American Express that could be significant.
If Continentals unrestricted cash balance is at or more than $2.0 billion as of any calendar month-end measurement date, its required reserve will remain at $25 million. However, if Continentals unrestricted cash balance is less than $2.0 billion or certain lower minimum cash amounts, its required reserve will increase to stated percentages of relevant advance ticket sales that could be significant. Based on Continentals December 31, 2010 unrestricted cash balance, Continental was not required to provide cash collateral above the current $25 million reserve balance.
An increase in the future reserve requirements and the posting of a significant amount of cash collateral, as provided by the terms of any or all of Uniteds and Continentals material credit card processing agreements, could materially reduce the Companys liquidity. See Note 17 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for a detailed discussion of our obligations under the Companys credit card processing agreements.
The Company may not be able to maintain adequate liquidity.
The Company has a significant amount of financial leverage from fixed obligations, including aircraft lease and debt financings, leases of airport property and other facilities, and other material cash obligations. In addition, the Company has substantial non-cancelable commitments for capital expenditures, including the acquisition of new aircraft and related spare engines. While the Companys cash flows from operations and its available capital, including the proceeds from financing transactions, have been sufficient to meet these obligations and commitments to date, the Companys future liquidity could be negatively impacted by the risk factors discussed in this Item 1A, including, but not limited to, substantial volatility in the price of fuel, adverse economic conditions and disruptions in the global capital markets.
In the event that the Companys liquidity is constrained due to the factors noted above or otherwise, the Companys failure to comply with certain financial covenants under its financing and credit card processing agreements, timely pay its debts, or comply with other material provisions of its contractual obligations could result in a variety of adverse consequences, including the acceleration of the Companys indebtedness, the increase of required reserves under credit card processing agreements, the withholding of credit card sale proceeds by its credit card service providers and the exercise of other remedies by its creditors and equipment lessors that could result in material adverse effects on the Companys financial position and results of operations.
Further, certain of the Companys debt is secured by collateral and the Company may have limited remaining assets available as collateral for loans or other indebtedness, which may make it difficult to raise additional capital to meet its liquidity needs. The Companys level of indebtedness, non-investment grade credit rating and the current market conditions may also make it difficult for the Company to raise capital to meet its liquidity needs and may increase its cost of borrowing. A higher cost of capital could negatively impact its results of operations, financial position and liquidity.
See Item 7, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, for further information regarding the Companys liquidity.
Economic and industry conditions constantly change and unfavorable global economic conditions may have a material adverse effect on the Companys business and results of operations.
The Companys business and results of operations are significantly impacted by general economic and industry conditions. The airline industry is highly cyclical, and the level of demand for air travel is correlated to the strength of the U.S. and global economies. Robust demand for our air transportation services depends largely
on favorable general economic conditions, including the strength of the global and local economies, low unemployment levels, strong consumer confidence levels and the availability of consumer and business credit. For leisure travelers, air transportation is often a discretionary purchase that those consumers can eliminate from their spending in difficult economic times. In addition, during periods of unfavorable economic conditions, businesses usually reduce the volume of their business travel, either due to cost-savings initiatives or as a result of decreased business activity requiring travel.
The overall demand for air transportation in the United States significantly decreased in 2008 and 2009 due to the severe global economic recession, and this decline in demand disproportionately reduced the volume of high-yield traffic in the premium cabins on domestic and international flights, as many business travelers either curtailed their travel or purchased lower yield economy tickets. Decreases in passenger and cargo demand that resulted in lower passenger volumes and lower ticket fares had a significant adverse impact on our results of operations in 2008 and 2009. While some economic indicators are beginning to exhibit growth, other economic indicators that may reflect an economic recovery, such as unemployment, may not improve for an extended period of time. In addition, decreases in cargo revenues due to lower demand have a disproportionate impact on our operating results as our cargo revenues generally have higher margins as compared to our passenger revenues. Stagnant or worsening global economic conditions that contribute to reduced passenger and cargo revenues may have a material adverse effect on the Companys revenues, results of operations and liquidity.
In addition to its effect on demand for our services, the global economic recession severely disrupted the global capital markets, resulting in a diminished availability of financing and a higher cost for financing that was obtainable. Although access to the capital markets has improved, if economic conditions again worsen or these markets experience further disruptions, we may be unable to obtain financing on acceptable terms (or at all) to refinance certain maturing debt and to satisfy future capital commitments.
Continued periods of historically high fuel costs or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a material adverse impact on the Companys operating results.
Expenditures for aircraft fuel and related taxes represent one of the largest single costs of operating the Companys business. The Companys financial condition and result of operations may be significantly impacted by the availability and price of aircraft fuel. While the Company arranges to have fuel shipped on major pipelines and stored close to its major hub locations to ensure supply continuity in the short term, the Company cannot predict the continued future availability of aircraft fuel.
At times, due to the highly competitive nature of the airline industry, the Company has not been able to increase its fares or other fees sufficiently to offset increased fuel costs. Fuel prices continue to be volatile which may negatively impact the Companys liquidity in the future. The Company may not be able to increase its fares or other fees if fuel prices rise in the future and any such increases may not be sustainable in the highly competitive airline industry. In addition, any increases in fares or other fees may not sufficiently offset the fuel price increase and may reduce the demand for air travel.
The Company enters into hedging arrangements to protect against rising fuel costs. However, the Companys hedging programs may use significant amounts of cash due to posting of cash collateral in some circumstances, may not be successful in controlling fuel costs and may be limited due to market conditions and other factors. In addition, significant declines in fuel prices may increase the costs associated with the Companys fuel hedging arrangements to the extent it has entered into swaps or collars. Swaps and sold put options (as part of a collar) may obligate us to make payments to the counterparty upon settlement of the contracts if the price of the commodity hedged falls below the agreed upon amount. Declining crude and related oil prices may result in the Company posting significant amounts of collateral to cover potential amounts owed (beyond certain credit-based thresholds) with respect to swap and collar contracts that have not yet settled. Also, lower fuel prices may result in increased industry capacity and lower fares, especially to the extent that reduced fuel costs justify increased utilization by airlines of less fuel efficient aircraft.
There can be no assurance that the Companys hedging arrangements will provide any particular level of protection against increases or declines in fuel costs or that its counterparties will be able to perform under the Companys hedging arrangements. Additionally, deterioration in the Companys financial condition could negatively affect its ability to enter into new hedge contracts in the future and may potentially require the Company to post increased amounts of collateral under its fuel hedging agreements.
See Note 13 to the financial statements included in Item 8 for additional information on the Companys hedging programs.
Terrorist attacks or international hostilities, or the fear of terrorist attacks or hostilities, even if not made directly on the airline industry, could negatively affect the Company and the airline industry.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 involving commercial aircraft severely and adversely impacted each of Uniteds and Continentals financial condition and results of operations, as well as the prospects for the airline industry. Among the effects experienced from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were substantial flight disruption costs caused by the FAA-imposed temporary grounding of the U.S. airline industrys fleet, significantly increased security costs and associated passenger inconvenience, increased insurance costs, substantially higher ticket refunds and significantly decreased traffic and passenger revenue.
Additional terrorist attacks, even if not made directly on the airline industry, or the fear of or the precautions taken in anticipation of such attacks (including elevated national threat warnings or selective cancellation or redirection of flights) could materially and adversely affect the Company and the airline industry. Wars and other international hostilities could also have a material adverse impact on the Companys financial condition, liquidity and results of operations. The Companys financial resources might not be sufficient to absorb the adverse effects of any further terrorist attacks or other international hostilities involving the United States or U.S. interests.
The airline industry is highly competitive and susceptible to price discounting and changes in capacity, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company.
The U.S. airline industry is characterized by substantial price competition. In recent years, the market share held by low-cost carriers has increased significantly and is expected to continue to increase. The increased market presence of low-cost carriers, which engage in substantial price discounting, has diminished the ability of large network carriers to exercise pricing power and maintain sufficient fare levels in domestic markets to achieve sustained profitability.
Airlines also compete for market share by increasing or decreasing their capacity, including route systems and the number of markets served. Several of the Companys domestic competitors have increased their international capacity by including service to some destinations that the Company currently serves, causing overlap in destinations served and therefore increasing competition for those destinations. In addition, the Company and certain of its competitors have implemented significant capacity reductions in recent years in response to the global recession. Further, certain of the Companys competitors may not reduce capacity or may increase capacity, thereby diminishing the expected benefit to the Company from capacity reductions. This increased competition in both domestic and international markets may have a material adverse effect on the Companys results of operations, financial condition or liquidity.
The airline industry may undergo further bankruptcy restructuring, industry consolidation, or the creation or modification of alliances or joint ventures, any of which could have a material adverse effect on the Company.
The Company faces and may to continue to face strong competition from other carriers due to bankruptcy restructuring, industry consolidation, and the creation and modification of alliances and joint ventures. A number of carriers have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years and other domestic and international carriers could restructure in bankruptcy or threaten to do so in the future to reduce their costs. Carriers operating under
bankruptcy protection can operate in a manner that could be adverse to the Company and could emerge from bankruptcy as more vigorous competitors.
Since 2008, the U.S. airline industry has experienced consolidation through a number of mergers and acquisitions. The Company is also facing stronger competition from expanded airline alliances and joint ventures. Carriers entering into and participating in airline alliances and/or joint ventures may also become strong competitors as they are able to coordinate routes, pool revenues and costs, and enjoy other mutual benefits, achieving many of the benefits of consolidation. Open skies agreements, including the agreements between the United States and the EU and between the United States and Japan, may also give rise to additional consolidation or better integration opportunities among international carriers.
There is ongoing speculation that further airline industry reorganizations or consolidations could occur in the future. The Company routinely engages in analysis and discussions regarding its own strategic position, including alliances, asset acquisitions and divestitures and business combinations, and may have future discussions with other airlines regarding strategic activities. If other airlines participate in such activities, those airlines may significantly improve their cost structures or revenue generation capabilities, thereby potentially making them stronger competitors of the Company and potentially impairing the Companys ability to realize expected benefits from its own strategic relationships.
Additional security requirements may increase the Companys costs and decrease its revenues and traffic.
Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration have implemented numerous security measures that affect airline operations and costs, including the presence of federal air marshals, use of passenger data, limitations on the content of carry-on baggage, expanded cargo and baggage screening, and body scanning, fingerprinting and photographing, and are likely to implement additional measures in the future. In addition, foreign governments have also instituted additional security measures at foreign airports the Company serves. A substantial portion of the costs of these security measures is borne by the airlines and their passengers, increasing the Companys costs and/or reducing its revenue and traffic. Additional measures taken to enhance either passenger or cargo security procedures and/or to recover associated costs in the future may increase the Companys costs and/or decrease the demand for air travel, and may result in related adverse effects on the Companys results of operations.
Extensive government regulation could materially increase the Companys operating costs and restrict its ability to conduct its business.
Airlines are subject to extensive regulatory and legal compliance requirements that result in significant costs and may have adverse effects. Laws, regulations, taxes and airport rates and charges, both domestically and internationally, have been proposed from time to time that could significantly increase the cost of airline operations or reduce airline revenue. The Company cannot provide any assurance that current laws and regulations, or laws or regulations enacted in the future, will not adversely affect its financial condition or results of operations.
Each of United and Continental operates under a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the DOT. If the DOT altered, amended, modified, suspended or revoked these certificates, it could have a material adverse effect on the Companys business. The FAA from time to time also issues directives and other regulations relating to the maintenance and operation of aircraft that require material expenditures or operational restrictions by the Company, and which could include the temporary grounding of an entire aircraft type if the FAA identifies design, manufacturing, maintenance or other issues requiring immediate corrective action. FAA requirements cover, among other things, retirement of older aircraft, security measures, collision avoidance systems, airborne windshear avoidance systems, noise abatement and other environmental concerns, aircraft operation and safety and increased inspections and maintenance procedures to be conducted on older aircraft. These FAA directives or requirements could have a material adverse effect on the Company.
In addition, the Companys operations may be adversely impacted due to the existing antiquated air traffic control (ATC) system utilized by the U.S. government. During peak travel periods in certain markets, the current ATC systems inability to handle existing travel demand has led to short-term capacity constraints imposed by government agencies and resulted in delays and disruptions of air traffic. In addition, the current system will not be able to effectively handle projected future air traffic growth. Imposition of these ATC constraints on a long-term basis may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. Failure to update the ATC system in a timely manner, and the substantial funding requirements of a modernized ATC system that may be imposed on air carriers may have an adverse impact on the Companys financial condition or results of operations.
The airline industry is subject to extensive federal, state and local taxes and fees that increase the cost of the Companys operations. In addition to taxes and fees that the Company is currently subject to, proposed taxes and fees are currently pending and if imposed, would increase the Companys operating expenses.
Access to landing and take-off rights, or slots, at several major U.S. airports and many foreign airports served by the Company are, or recently have been, subject to government regulation. Certain of the Companys major hubs are among increasingly congested airports in the United States and have been or could be the subject of regulatory action that might limit the number of flights and/or increase costs of operations at certain times or throughout the day. The FAA may limit the Companys airport access by limiting the number of departure and arrival slots at high density traffic airports, which could affect the Companys ownership and transfer rights, and local airport authorities may have the ability to control access to certain facilities or the cost of access to its facilities, which could have an adverse effect on the Companys business. In addition, in 2008, the FAA planned to withdraw and auction a certain number of slots held by airlines at the three primary New York area airports, which the airlines challenged and the FAA terminated in 2009. If the FAA were to plan another auction that survived legal challenge by the airlines, the Company could incur substantial costs to obtain such slots. Further, the Companys operating costs at airports at which it operates, including the Companys major hubs, may increase significantly because of capital improvements at such airports that the Company may be required to fund, directly or indirectly. In some circumstances, such costs could be imposed by the relevant airport authority without the Companys approval and may have a material adverse effect on the Companys financial condition.
The ability of U.S. carriers to operate international routes is subject to change because the applicable arrangements between the United States and foreign governments may be amended from time to time, or because appropriate slots or facilities may not be made available. The Company currently operates on a number of international routes under government arrangements that limit the number of carriers permitted to operate on the route, the capacity of the carriers providing services on the route, or the number of carriers allowed access to particular airports. If an open skies policy were to be adopted for any of these routes, such an event could have a material adverse impact on the Companys financial position and results of operations and could result in the impairment of material amounts of related tangible and intangible assets. In addition, competition from revenue-sharing joint ventures and other alliance arrangements by and among other airlines could impair the value of the Companys business and assets on the open skies routes.
The Companys plans to enter into or expand antitrust immunized joint ventures for various international regions are subject to receipt of approvals from applicable federal authorities or otherwise satisfying applicable regulatory requirements, and there can be no assurance that such approvals will be granted or applicable regulatory requirements will be satisfied.
Many aspects of the Companys operations are also subject to increasingly stringent federal, state, local and international laws protecting the environment. Future environmental regulatory developments, such as climate change regulations in the United States and abroad could adversely affect operations and increase operating costs in the airline industry. There are certain climate change laws and regulations that have already gone into effect and that apply to the Company, including the EU ETS (subject to legal challenge), the State of Californias cap
and trade regulations, environmental taxes for certain international flights, limited greenhouse gas reporting requirements and land-use planning laws which could apply to airports and could affect airlines in certain circumstances. In addition, there is the potential for additional regulatory actions in regard to the emission of greenhouse gases by the aviation industry. The precise nature of future requirements and their applicability to the Company are difficult to predict, but the financial impact to the Company and the aviation industry would likely be adverse and could be significant.
See Item 1, BusinessIndustry Regulation, above, for further information on government regulation impacting the Company.
The Companys results of operations fluctuate due to seasonality and other factors associated with the airline industry.
Due to greater demand for air travel during the spring and summer months, revenues in the airline industry in the second and third quarters of the year are generally stronger than revenues in the first and fourth quarters of the year. The Companys results of operations generally reflect this seasonality, but have also been impacted by numerous other factors that are not necessarily seasonal including, among others, the imposition of excise and similar taxes, extreme or severe weather, air traffic control congestion, geological events, natural disasters, changes in the competitive environment due to industry consolidation and other factors and general economic conditions. As a result, the Companys quarterly operating results are not necessarily indicative of operating results for an entire year and historical operating results in a quarterly or annual period are not necessarily indicative of future operating results.
The Company could experience adverse publicity, harm to its brand, reduced travel demand and potential tort liability as a result of an accident or other catastrophe involving its aircraft, the aircraft of its regional carriers or the aircraft of its codeshare partners, which may result in a material adverse effect on the Companys results of operations or financial position.
An accident or catastrophe involving an aircraft that the Company operates, or an aircraft that is operated by a codeshare partner or one of the Companys regional carriers, could have a material adverse effect on the Company if such accident created a public perception that the Companys operations, or the operations of its codeshare partners or regional carriers, are less safe or reliable than other airlines. Such public perception could in turn cause harm to the Companys brand and reduce travel demand on the Companys flights, or the flights or its codeshare partners or regional carriers. In addition, any such accident could expose the Company to significant tort liability. Although the Company currently maintains liability insurance in amounts and of the type the Company believes to be consistent with industry practice to cover damages arising from any such accident, and the Companys codeshare partners and regional carriers carry similar insurance and generally indemnify the Company for their operations, if the Companys liability exceeds the applicable policy limits or the ability of another carrier to indemnify it, the Company could incur substantial losses from an accident which may result in a material adverse effect on the Companys results of operations or financial position.
UALs obligations for funding Continentals defined benefit pension plans are affected by factors beyond UALs control.
Continental has defined benefit pension plans covering substantially all of its U.S. employees, other than the employees of its Chelsea Food Services division and Continental Micronesia, Inc. The timing and amount of UALs funding requirements under Continentals plans depend upon a number of factors, including labor negotiations with the applicable employee groups and changes to pension plan benefits as well as factors outside of UALs control, such as the number of applicable retiring employees, asset returns, interest rates and changes in pension laws. Changes to these and other factors that can significantly increase UALs funding requirements, such as its liquidity requirements, could have a material adverse effect on UALs financial condition.
The Company may never realize the full value of its intangible assets or our long-lived assets causing it to record impairments that may negatively affect its results of operations.
In accordance with applicable accounting standards, the Company is required to test its indefinite-lived intangible assets for impairment on an annual basis on October 1 of each year, or more frequently if conditions indicate that an impairment may have occurred. In addition, the Company is required to test certain of its other assets for impairment if conditions indicate that an impairment may have occurred.
During the years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, the Company performed impairment tests of certain intangible assets and certain long-lived assets (principally aircraft, related spare engines and spare parts). The interim impairment tests were due to events and changes in circumstances that indicated an impairment might have occurred. Certain of the factors deemed by management to have indicated that impairments may have occurred include a significant decrease in actual and forecasted revenues, record high fuel prices, significant losses, a weak U.S. economy, and changes in the planned use of assets. As a result of the impairment testing, the Company recorded significant impairment charges as described in Note 4 to the financial statements included in Item 8. The Company may be required to recognize additional impairments in the future due to, among other factors, extreme fuel price volatility, tight credit markets, a decline in the fair value of certain tangible or intangible assets, unfavorable trends in historical or forecasted results of operations and cash flows and the uncertain economic environment, as well as other uncertainties. The Company can provide no assurance that a material impairment charge of tangible or intangible assets will not occur in a future period. The value of our aircraft could be impacted in future periods by changes in supply and demand for these aircraft. Such changes in supply and demand for certain aircraft types could result from grounding of aircraft by the Company or other carriers. An impairment charge could have a material adverse effect on the Companys financial position and results of operations.
Union disputes, employee strikes or slowdowns, and other labor-related disruptions, as well as the integration of the United and Continental workforces in connection with the Merger, present the potential for a delay in achieving expected merger synergies, increased labor costs or additional labor disputes that could adversely affect the Companys operations and impair its financial performance.
United and Continental are both highly unionized companies. As of December 31, 2010, UAL and its subsidiaries had approximately 86,000 active employees, of whom approximately 72% were represented by various U.S. labor organizations. The successful integration of United and Continental and achievement of the anticipated benefits of the combination depend in part on integrating United and Continental employee groups and maintaining productive employee relations. Failure to do so presents the potential for delays in achieving expected merger synergies, increased labor costs and labor disputes that could adversely affect our operations.
In order to fully integrate the pre-merger represented employee groups, the Company must negotiate a joint collective bargaining agreement covering each combined group. The process for integrating the labor groups of United and Continental is governed by a combination of the RLA, the McCaskill-Bond Amendment, and where applicable, the existing provisions of each companys collective bargaining agreements and union policy. Pending operational integration, the Company will apply the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreements unless other terms have been negotiated. Under the McCaskill-Bond Amendment, seniority integration must be accomplished in a fair and equitable manner consistent with the process set forth in the Allegheny-Mohawk Labor Protective Provisions or internal union Merger policies, if applicable. Employee dissatisfaction with the results of the seniority integration may lead to litigation that in some cases can delay implementation of the integrated seniority list. The National Mediation Board has exclusive authority to resolve representation disputes arising out of airline mergers.
Following announcement of the Merger, ALPA, which represents pilots at both carriers, opted to pursue negotiations with the Company for a joint collective bargaining agreement (JCBA) that would govern the combined pilot group. In July 2010, United and Continental reached agreement with ALPA on a Transition and Process Agreement that provides a framework for conducting pilot operations of the two groups until the parties
reach agreement on a JCBA and the carriers obtain a single operating certificate. In August 2010, United and Continental began joint negotiations with ALPA and the negotiations are presently ongoing.
The Company can provide no assurance that a successful or timely resolution of labor negotiations for all amendable agreements will be achieved. There is a risk that unions or individual employees might pursue judicial or arbitral claims arising out of changes implemented as a result of the Merger. There is also a possibility that employees or unions could engage in job actions such as slow-downs, work-to-rule campaigns, sick-outs or other actions designed to disrupt Uniteds and Continentals normal operations, in an attempt to pressure the companies in collective bargaining negotiations. Although the RLA makes such actions unlawful until the parties have been lawfully released to self-help, and United and Continental can seek injunctive relief against premature self-help, such actions can cause significant harm even if ultimately enjoined. In 2008, United obtained a preliminary injunction preventing Uniteds pilots from engaging in any actions designed to disrupt Uniteds normal operations. As a result of an agreement between the parties, the preliminary injunction will remain in place until United and ALPA have negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement.
Increases in insurance costs or reductions in insurance coverage may materially and adversely impact the Companys results of operations and financial condition.
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to a significant increase in insurance premiums and a decrease in the insurance coverage available to commercial airlines. Accordingly, the Companys insurance costs increased significantly and its ability to continue to obtain certain types of insurance remains uncertain. The Company has obtained third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance through a special program administered by the FAA, resulting in lower premiums than if it had obtained this insurance in the commercial insurance market. Should the government discontinue this coverage, obtaining comparable coverage from commercial underwriters could result in substantially higher premiums and more restrictive terms, if it is available at all. If the Company is unable to obtain adequate war risk insurance, its business could be materially and adversely affected.
If any of the Companys aircraft were to be involved in an accident or if the Companys property or operations were to be affected by a significant natural catastrophe or other event, the Company could be exposed to significant liability or loss. If the Company is unable to obtain sufficient insurance (including aviation hull and liability insurance and property and business interruption coverage) to cover such liabilities or losses, whether due to insurance market conditions or otherwise, its results of operations and financial condition could be materially and adversely affected.
The Company relies heavily on technology and automated systems to operate its business and any significant failure or disruption of the technology or these systems could materially harm its business.
The Company depends on automated systems and technology to operate its business, including computerized airline reservation systems, flight operations systems, telecommunication systems and commercial websites, including www.united.com and www.continental.com. Uniteds and Continentals websites and other automated systems must be able to accommodate a high volume of traffic and deliver important flight and schedule information, as well as process critical financial transactions. These systems could suffer substantial or repeated disruptions due to events beyond the Companys control, including natural disasters, power failures, terrorist attacks, equipment or software failures, computer viruses or hackers. Substantial or repeated website, reservations systems or telecommunication systems failures could reduce the attractiveness of the Companys services versus its competitors, materially impair its ability to market its services and operate its flights, and could result in increased costs, lost revenue and the loss or compromise of important data.
The Companys business relies extensively on third-party providers. Failure of these parties to perform as expected, or interruptions in the Companys relationships with these providers or their provision of services to the Company, could have an adverse effect on the Companys financial position and results of operations.
The Company has engaged an increasing number of third-party service providers to perform a large number of functions that are integral to its business, including regional operations, operation of customer service call
centers, distribution and sale of airline seat inventory, provision of information technology infrastructure and services, provision of aircraft maintenance and repairs, provision of various utilities and performance of aircraft fueling operations, among other vital functions and services. The Company does not directly control these third-party providers, although it does enter into agreements with many of them that define expected service performance. Any of these third-party providers, however, may materially fail to meet their service performance commitments to the Company or agreements with such providers may be terminated. For example, flight reservations booked by customers and travel agents via third-party GDSs may be affected by changes to the contract terms between the Company and GDS operators. A failure to agree upon acceptable contract terms when these contracts expire or otherwise become subject to renegotiation, which is scheduled to occur for some of these contracts later in 2011, or other disruptions in the business relationships between the Company and GDS operators, may cause the carriers flight information to be limited or unavailable for display, significantly increase fees for both the Company and GDS users, and impair the Companys relationships with its customers and travel agents. The failure of any of the Companys third-party service providers to adequately perform their service obligations, or other interruptions of services, may reduce the Companys revenues and increase its expenses or prevent the Company from operating its flights and providing other services to its customers. In addition, the Companys business and financial performance could be materially harmed if its customers believe that its services are unreliable or unsatisfactory.
The Companys ability to use its net operating loss carryforwards to offset future taxable income for U.S. federal income tax purposes may be significantly limited due to various circumstances, including certain possible future transactions involving the sale or issuance of UAL common stock, or if taxable income does not reach sufficient levels.
As of December 31, 2010, UAL reported consolidated federal net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards of approximately $11.6 billion.
The Companys ability to use its NOL carryforwards may be limited if it experiences an ownership change as defined in Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (Section 382). An ownership change generally occurs if certain stockholders increase their aggregate percentage ownership of a corporations stock by more than 50 percentage points over their lowest percentage ownership at any time during the testing period, which is generally the three-year period preceding any potential ownership change.
As of October 1, 2010, UAL Corporation and Continental each experienced an ownership change under Section 382 in connection with the Merger. While these merger-related ownership changes are not expected to significantly limit the Companys use of its NOL carryforwards in the carryforward period, there is no assurance that the Company will not experience a future ownership change under Section 382 that may significantly limit or possibly eliminate its ability to use its NOL carryforwards. Potential future transactions involving the sale or issuance of UAL common stock, including the exercise of conversion options under the terms of the Companys convertible debt, repurchase of such debt with UAL common stock, issuance of UAL common stock for cash and the acquisition or disposition of such stock by a stockholder owning 5% or more of UAL common stock, or a combination of such transactions, may increase the possibility that the Company will experience a future ownership change under Section 382. Under Section 382, a future ownership change would subject the Company to an annual limitation that applies to the amount of pre-ownership change NOLs that may be used to offset post-ownership change taxable income. This limitation is generally determined by multiplying the value of a corporations stock immediately before the ownership change by the applicable long-term tax-exempt rate. Any unused annual limitation may, subject to certain limits, be carried over to later years, and the limitation may under certain circumstances be increased by built-in gains in the assets held by such corporation at the time of the ownership change. This limitation could cause the Companys U.S. federal income taxes to be greater, or to be paid earlier, than they otherwise would be, and could cause all or a portion of the Companys NOL carryforwards to expire unused. Similar rules and limitations may apply for state income tax purposes. The Companys ability to use its NOL carryforwards will also depend on the amount of taxable income it generates in future periods. Its NOL carryforwards may expire before the Company can generate sufficient taxable income to use them in full.
UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation limits certain transfers of its stock which could have an effect on the market price of UAL common stock.
To reduce the risk of a potential adverse effect on the Companys ability to use its NOL carryforwards for federal income tax purposes, UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation contains a 5% ownership limitation. This limitation generally remains effective until February 1, 2014, or until such later date as may be approved by the UAL Board of Directors (the Board of Directors) in its sole discretion. The limitation prohibits (i) an acquisition by a single stockholder of shares that results in that stockholder owning 5% or more of UAL common stock and (ii) any acquisition or disposition of common stock by a stockholder that already owns 5% or more of UAL common stock, unless prior written approval is granted by the Board of Directors.
Any transfer of common stock in violation of these restrictions will be void and will be treated as if such transfer never occurred. This provision of UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation may impair or prevent a sale of common stock by a stockholder and adversely affect the price at which a stockholder can sell UAL common stock. In addition, this limitation may have the effect of delaying or preventing a change in control of the Company, creating a perception that a change in control cannot occur or otherwise discouraging takeover attempts that some stockholders may consider beneficial, which could also adversely affect the market price of the UAL common stock. The Company cannot predict the effect that this provision in UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation may have on the market price of the UAL common stock. For additional information regarding the 5% ownership limitation, please refer to UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation available on the Companys website.
The Company is subject to economic and political instability and other risks of doing business globally.
The Company is a global business with operations outside of the United States from which it derives approximately one-third of its operating revenues, as measured and reported to the DOT. The Companys operations in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are a vital part of its worldwide airline network. Volatile economic, political and market conditions in these international regions may have a negative impact on the Companys operating results and its ability to achieve its business objectives. In addition, significant or volatile changes in exchange rates between the U.S. dollar and other currencies, and the imposition of exchange controls or other currency restrictions, may have a material adverse impact upon the Companys liquidity, revenues, costs and operating results.
The Company could be adversely affected by an outbreak of a disease, or similar public health threats, that affect travel behavior.
An outbreak of a disease that affects travel demand or travel behavior, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, avian flu or H1N1 virus, or other illness, or travel restrictions or reduction in the demand for air travel caused by similar public health threats in the future, could have a material adverse impact on the Companys business, financial condition and results of operations.
Certain provisions of UALs Governance Documents could discourage or delay changes of control or changes to the Board of Directors.
Certain provisions of UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws (together, the Governance Documents) may make it difficult for stockholders to change the composition of the Board of Directors and may discourage takeover attempts that some of its stockholders may consider beneficial.
Certain provisions of the Governance Documents may have the effect of delaying or preventing changes in control if the Board of Directors determines that such changes in control are not in the best interests of UAL and its stockholders. These provisions of the Governance Documents are not intended to prevent a takeover, but are intended to protect and maximize the value of UALs stockholders interests. While these provisions have the
effect of encouraging persons seeking to acquire control of UAL to negotiate with the Board of Directors, they could enable the Board of Directors to prevent a transaction that some, or a majority, of its stockholders might believe to be in their best interests and, in that case, may prevent or discourage attempts to remove and replace incumbent directors.
The issuance of UALs 8% Contingent Senior Notes could materially and adversely impact the Companys results of operations, liquidity and financial position.
UAL would be obligated under an indenture to issue to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) up to $500 million aggregate principal amount of 8% Contingent Senior Notes (the 8% Notes) if certain financial triggering events occur. The 8% Notes would be issued in up to eight equal tranches of $62.5 million (with each tranche issued no later than 45 days following the end of any applicable fiscal year). A triggering event occurs when UALs EBITDAR (as defined in the PBGC indenture) exceeds $3.5 billion over the prior twelve months ending June 30 or December 31 of any applicable fiscal year. The twelve-month measurement periods began with the fiscal year ended December 31, 2009 and will end with the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017. However, if the issuance of a tranche would cause a default under any other securities then existing, UAL may satisfy its obligations with respect to such tranche by issuing UAL common stock having a market value equal to $62.5 million. Each issued tranche will mature 15 years from its respective triggering event date, with interest payable in cash in semi-annual installments, and will be callable, at UALs option, at any time at par, plus accrued and unpaid interest. Because Continentals EBITDAR will be included in the calculation for periods subsequent to the closing of the Merger, the Merger increases the likelihood that all or a portion of the 8% Notes will be issued, as well as the likelihood that the timing of any such issuances would be accelerated. However, because the issuance of the 8% Notes is based upon future operating results, we cannot predict the exact number and timing of any such issuances by the Company. The issuance of the 8% Notes could adversely impact the Companys results of operations because of increased charges to earnings for the principal amount of the notes issued and increased interest expense related to the notes. Issuance of such notes could also materially and adversely impact the Companys liquidity due to increased cash required to meet interest and principal payments.
Delays in scheduled aircraft deliveries may adversely affect the Companys ability to expand its capacity.
The Company from time to time acquires additional aircraft to increase its domestic and international capacity when the level of demand for air travel supports such growth. The Company has contractual commitments to purchase aircraft that it currently believes is necessary for its capacity growth. Delays in aircraft deliveries under those contractual commitments may occur and the Company has been, and may in the future be, adversely impacted by those delays. If significant additional delays in the deliveries of new aircraft occur, the Company may be able to accomplish capacity increases only by making alternative arrangements to acquire the necessary aircraft, if available and possibly on less financially favorable terms, including higher ownership and operating costs.
The issuance of additional shares of UALs capital stock, including the issuance of common stock upon conversion of convertible notes and upon a noteholders exercise of its option to require UAL to repurchase convertible notes, could cause dilution to the interests of its existing stockholders.
UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation authorizes up to one billion shares of common stock. In certain circumstances, UAL can issue shares of common stock without stockholder approval. In addition, the Board of Directors is authorized to issue up to 250 million shares of preferred stock without any action on the part of UALs stockholders. The Board of Directors also has the power, without stockholder approval, to set the terms of any series of shares of preferred stock that may be issued, including voting rights, conversion rights, dividend rights, preferences over UALs common stock with respect to dividends or if UAL liquidates, dissolves or winds up its business and other terms. If UAL issues preferred stock in the future that has a preference over its common stock with respect to the payment of dividends or upon its liquidation, dissolution or winding up, or if UAL issues preferred stock with voting rights that dilute the voting power of its common stock, the rights of holders of its common stock or the market price of its common stock could be adversely affected.
UAL is also authorized to issue, without stockholder approval, other securities convertible into either preferred stock or, in certain circumstances, common stock. As of December 31, 2010, UAL had $1.7 billion of convertible debt outstanding. Holders of these securities may convert them into shares of UAL common stock according to their terms. In addition, certain of UALs notes include noteholder early redemption options. If a noteholder exercises such option, UAL may elect to pay the repurchase price in cash, shares of its common stock or a combination thereof. If UAL elects to pay the repurchase price in shares of its common stock, UAL is obligated to deliver a number of shares of common stock equal to the repurchase price divided by an average price of UAL common stock for a 20-consecutive trading day period. See Note 14 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information related to these convertible notes. The number of shares issued could be significant and such an issuance could cause significant dilution to the interests of its existing stockholders. In addition, if UAL elects to pay the repurchase price in cash, its liquidity could be adversely affected.
In the future, UAL may decide to raise additional capital through offerings of UAL common stock, securities convertible into UAL common stock, or exercise rights to acquire these securities or its common stock. The issuance of additional shares of common stock, including upon the conversion or repurchase of convertible debt, could result in significant dilution of existing stockholders equity interests in UAL. Issuances of substantial amounts of its common stock, or the perception that such issuances could occur, may adversely affect prevailing market prices for UALs common stock and UAL cannot predict the effect this dilution may have on the price of its common stock.
UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation limits voting rights of certain foreign persons.
UALs amended and restated certificate of incorporation limits the total number of shares of equity securities held by persons who fail to qualify as a citizen of the United States, as defined in Section 40102(a)(15) of Title 49 of the United States Code, to no more than 24.9% of the aggregate votes of all outstanding equity securities of UAL. This restriction is applied pro rata among all holders of equity securities who fail to qualify as citizens of the United States, based on the number of votes to which the underlying securities are entitled.
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES.
Including aircraft operating by regional carriers on their behalf, Continental and United operated 607 and 655 aircraft, respectively, as of December 31, 2010. UALs combined fleet as of December 31, 2010 is presented in the table below:
In addition to the operating aircraft presented in the table above, United and Continental own or lease the nonoperating aircraft listed below that are parked or leased to other carriers as of December 31, 2010:
Firm Order and Option Aircraft.
As of December 31, 2010, United and Continental had firm commitments and options to purchase the following aircraft:
See Item 7, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and Note 17 in Item 8 of this report for information related to future capital commitments to purchase these aircraft.
Uniteds and Continentals principal facilities relate to leases of airport facilities, gates, hangar sites, terminal buildings and other airport facilities in most of the municipalities they serve with their most significant leases at airport hub locations. United has major terminal facility leases at SFO, Washington Dulles, Chicago OHare, LAX and Denver with expiration dates ranging from 2011 to 2025. Continental has major facility leases at New York Liberty, Houston Bush, Cleveland Hopkins and Guam with expiration dates ranging from 2011 through 2030. Substantially all of these facilities are leased on a net-rental basis, resulting in the Companys responsibility for maintenance, insurance and other facility-related expenses and services.
United and Continental also maintain administrative offices, terminal, catering, cargo and other airport facilities, training facilities, maintenance facilities and other facilities to support operations in the cities served. United also has multiple leases, which expire from 2022 through 2026 and include approximately 890,000 square feet of office space for its corporate headquarters and operations center in downtown Chicago. Continental also leases approximately 670,000 square feet of office and related space for its executive and other offices and operations center in downtown Houston.
United also owns a 66.5-acre complex in suburban Chicago consisting of more than 1 million square feet of office space, including a computer operations facility and a training center. The Company is in the process of moving most its employees out of this location to its leased facilities in downtown Chicago. Most of the operations in suburban Chicago are expected to be relocated by the end of 2011. United is attempting to sell the suburban facility as part of its plans to relocate employees to its downtown Chicago facilities.
United owns a flight training center in Denver. The flight training center accommodates 36 flight simulators and more than 90 computer-based training stations. United also owns a crew hotel in Honolulu which is mortgaged. Uniteds maintenance operation center at SFO occupies 130 acres of land, 2.9 million square feet of floor space and nine aircraft hangar bays under a lease expiring in 2013. United has an option to renew the lease through 2023.
For additional information on aircraft and aircraft-related assets that are encumbered by debt agreements, aircraft leases, guarantees relating to facilities, including Continentals contingent liability for US Airways obligations under a lease agreement covering the East End Terminal at LaGuardia, see Notes 14, 15 and 17 to the financial statements in Item 8 of this report.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS.
Air Cargo/Passenger Surcharge Investigations
In February 2006, the European Commission (the Commission) and the United States Department of Justice (the DOJ) commenced an international investigation into what government officials described as a possible price fixing conspiracy relating to certain surcharges included in tariffs for carrying air cargo. The DOJ issued a grand jury subpoena to United and the Commission conducted an inspection at the Companys offices in Frankfurt. United is considered a source of information for the DOJ investigation, not a target.
On December 18, 2007, the Commission issued a Statement of Objections to 26 companies, including United. The Statement of Objections presented evidence related to the utilization of fuel and security surcharges and the exchange of pricing information that the Commission views as supporting the conclusion that an illegal price-fixing cartel had been in operation in the air cargo transportation industry. After United provided written and oral responses disputing the Commissions allegations against it, the Commission dismissed United from its case on November 12, 2010. On July 31, 2008, state prosecutors in Sao Paulo, Brazil, commenced criminal
proceedings against eight individuals, including Uniteds cargo manager, for allegedly participating in cartel activity. United is actively participating in the defense of those allegations. On January 4, 2010, the Economic Law Secretariat of Brazil issued its opinion recommending that civil penalties be assessed against all parties being investigated, including United, to the Administrative Counsel of Economic Defense (CADE), which will make a determination on the matter. United will vigorously defend itself before the CADE. On December 15, 2008, the New Zealand Commerce Commission issued Notices of Proceeding and Statements of Claim to 13 airlines, including United. United is vigorously defending these proceedings.
In addition to the government investigations, United was initially named as a defendant, along with other air cargo carriers, in over ninety class action lawsuits alleging civil damages as a result of the purported air cargo pricing conspiracy. Those lawsuits were consolidated for pretrial activities in the United States Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York on June 20, 2006. United entered into an agreement with the majority of the private plaintiffs to dismiss United from the class action lawsuits in return for an agreement to cooperate with the plaintiffs factual investigation. United is no longer a defendant in the consolidated civil lawsuit.
United is currently cooperating with all ongoing investigations and continues to analyze whether any potential liability may result from any of the investigating bodies. Based on its evaluation of all information currently available, United has determined that no reserve for potential liability is required and will continue to defend itself against all allegations that it was aware of or participated in cartel activities. However, penalties for violation of competition laws can be substantial and an ultimate finding that United engaged in improper activity could have a material adverse impact on the Companys consolidated financial position and results of operations.
United Injunction Against ALPA and Four Individual Defendants for Unlawful Slowdown Activity under the Railway Labor Act
On July 30, 2008, United filed a lawsuit in the United States Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking a preliminary injunction against ALPA and four individual pilot employees for unlawful concerted activity that was disrupting the Companys operations. The court granted the preliminary injunction to United in November 2008, which was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. ALPA and United reached an agreement to discontinue the ongoing litigation over Uniteds motion for a permanent injunction and, instead, the preliminary injunction will remain in effect until the conclusion of the ongoing bargaining process for an amended collective bargaining agreement that began on April 9, 2009. By reaching this agreement, the parties are able to focus their efforts on the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement. Nothing in this agreement precludes either party from reopening the permanent injunction litigation upon a 30 day notice or from seeking enforcement of the preliminary injunction itself.
EEOC Claim Under the Americans with Disabilities Act
On June 5, 2009, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of five named individuals and other similarly situated employees alleging that Uniteds reasonable accommodation policy for employees with medical restrictions does not comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC maintains that qualified disabled employees should be placed into available open positions for which they are minimally qualified, even if there are better qualified candidates for these positions. Under Uniteds accommodation policy, employees who are medically restricted and who cannot be accommodated in their current position are given the opportunity to apply and compete for available positions. If the medically restricted employee is similarly qualified to others who are competing for an open position, under Uniteds policy, the medically restricted employee will be given a preference for the position. If, however, there are candidates that have superior qualifications competing for an open position, then no preference will be given. United successfully transferred the venue of the case to the United States Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois where the case law is currently favorable to Uniteds position. On November 22, 2010, United filed a motion to dismiss the matter. On February 3, 2011, the court granted Uniteds motion to dismiss which may be appealed by the EEOC within 60 days.
Litigation Associated with September 11, 2001 Terrorism
Families of 94 victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks filed lawsuits asserting a variety of claims against the airline industry. United and American Airlines (the aviation defendants), as the two carriers whose flights were hijacked, are the central focus of the litigation, but a variety of additional parties, including Continental, have been sued on a number of legal theories ranging from collective responsibility for airport screening and security systems that allegedly failed to prevent the attacks to faulty design and construction of the World Trade Center towers. World Trade Center Properties, Inc., as lessee, also filed claims against the aviation defendants and The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the Port Authority), the owner of the World Trade Center for property and business interruption damages. The Port Authority has also filed cross-claims against the aviation defendants in both the wrongful death litigation and for property damage sustained in the attacks. The insurers of various tenants at the World Trade Center filed subrogation claims for damages as well. By statute, these matters were consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the aviation defendants exposure was capped at the limit of the liability coverage maintained by each carrier at the time of the attacks. In the personal injury and wrongful death matters, the parties have settled all but one of the claims, in which settlement discussions continue, and for which a trial has been set in June 2011. Insurers for the aviation defendants reached a settlement with all of the subrogated insurers and most of the uninsured plaintiffs with property and business interruption claims, which was approved by the court. The courts approval order has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a claim for environmental cleanup damages filed by a neighboring property owner, Cedar & Washington Associates, LLC. This dismissal order has also been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In the aggregate, September 11th claims are estimated to be well in excess of $10 billion. The Company anticipates that any liability it could ultimately face arising from the events of September 11, 2001 could be significant, but by statute will be limited to the amount of its insurance coverage.
Travel Agency Litigation
During the period between 1997 and 2001, Continental and United each independently reduced or capped the base commissions paid to domestic travel agents and soon thereafter eliminated those base commissions. These actions were similar to those taken by other air carriers. Continental and United are defendants, along with several other air carriers, in two lawsuits brought by travel agencies that purportedly opted out of a prior class action entitled Sarah Futch Hall d/b/a/ Travel Specialists v. United Air Lines, et al. (U.S.D.C., Eastern District of North Carolina), filed on June 21, 2000, in which the defendant airlines prevailed on summary judgment that was upheld on appeal. The two lawsuits against Continental, United, and other major carriers allege violations of antitrust laws in reducing and ultimately eliminating the base commissions formerly paid to travel agents and seek unspecified money damages and certain injunctive relief under the Clayton Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The pending cases, which involve a total of 90 travel agency plaintiffs, are Tam Travel, Inc. v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., et al. (U.S.D.C., Northern District of California), filed on April 9, 2003 and Swope Travel Agency, et al. v. Orbitz LLC et al. (U.S.D.C., Eastern District of Texas), filed on June 5, 2003. By order dated November 10, 2003, these actions were transferred and consolidated for pretrial purposes by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to the Northern District of Ohio. On October 29, 2007, the judge for the consolidated lawsuit dismissed the case for failure to meet the heightened pleading standards established earlier in 2007 by the U.S. Supreme Courts decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly. On October 2, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the trial courts dismissal of the case. On December 18, 2009, the plaintiffs request for rehearing by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit en banc was denied. On March 18, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which was denied on January 10, 2011. The plaintiffs in the Swope lawsuit, encompassing 43 travel agencies, have also alleged that certain claims raised in their lawsuit were not, in fact, dismissed. The trial court has not yet ruled on that issue. In the consolidated lawsuit, the Company believes the plaintiffs claims are without merit, and intends to vigorously defend any continued action by the plaintiffs.
Litigation Related to the Merger Transaction
Following Continental and UALs announcement of the Merger on May 2, 2010, three class action lawsuits were filed against Continental, members of Continentals board of directors and UAL in the Texas District Court for Harris County. The lawsuits purported to represent a class of Continental stockholders opposed to the terms of the Merger agreement. The lawsuits made virtually identical allegations that the consideration to be received by Continentals stockholders in the Merger was inadequate and that the members of Continentals board of directors breached their fiduciary duties by, among other things, approving the Merger at an inadequate price under circumstances involving certain conflicts of interest. The lawsuits also made virtually identical allegations that UAL and Continental aided and abetted the Continental board of directors in the breach of their fiduciary duties to Continentals stockholders. Each lawsuit sought injunctive relief declaring that the Merger agreement was in breach of the Continental directors fiduciary duties, enjoining Continental and UAL from proceeding with the Merger unless Continental implements procedures to obtain the highest possible price for its stockholders, directing the Continental board of directors to exercise its fiduciary duties in the best interest of Continentals stockholders and rescinding the Merger agreement. On May 24, 2010, these three lawsuits were consolidated before a single judge.
On August 1, 2010, the parties reached an agreement in principle regarding settlement of the action. Under the terms of the settlement, the lawsuits will be dismissed with prejudice, releasing all defendants from any and all claims relating to, among other things, the Merger and any disclosures made in connection therewith. In exchange for that release, UAL and Continental provided additional disclosures requested by the plaintiffs in the action related to, among other things, the negotiations between Continental and UAL that resulted in the execution of the Merger agreement, the method by which the exchange ratio was determined, the procedures used by UALs and Continentals financial advisors in performing their financial analyses and certain investment banking fees paid to those advisors by UAL and Continental over the past two years. The settlement will not affect any provision of the Merger agreement or the form or amount of the consideration received by Continental stockholders in the Merger. The defendants have denied and continue to deny any wrongdoing or liability with respect to all claims, events, and transactions complained of in the aforementioned actions or that they have engaged in any wrongdoing. The defendants entered into the settlement to eliminate the uncertainty, burden, risk, expense, and distraction of further litigation. On February 14, 2011, the court entered final judgment and dismissed the case.
On June 29, 2010, forty-nine purported purchasers of airline tickets filed an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Continental and UAL in connection with the Merger. The plaintiffs alleged that the Merger may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in the transportation of airline passengers in the United States and the transportation of airline passengers to and from the United States on international flights, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. On August 9, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction pursuant to Section 16 of the Clayton Act, seeking to enjoin the Merger. On September 27, 2010, the court denied the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction, which allowed the Merger to close. After the closing of the Merger, the plaintiffs appealed the courts ruling and moved for a hold separate order pending the appeal, which was denied by the court. The appeal remains pending.
In 2001, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB) mandated a field study of the area surrounding Continentals aircraft maintenance hangar in Los Angeles. The study was completed in September 2001 and identified aircraft fuel and solvent contamination on and adjacent to this site. In April 2005, Continental began environmental remediation of aircraft fuel contamination surrounding its aircraft maintenance hangar pursuant to a workplan submitted to and approved by the CRWQCB and its landlord, the Los Angeles World Airports. Additionally, Continental could be responsible for environmental remediation costs primarily related to solvent contamination on and near this site.
In 2009, the EU issued a directive to member states to include aviation in its greenhouse gas Emissions Trading Scheme, which required the Company to begin monitoring emissions of carbon dioxide effective January 1, 2010. Beginning in 2012, the scheme would require the Company to ensure it has obtained sufficient emission allowances equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from flights to and from member states of the EU with such allowances then surrendered on an annual basis to the government. On December 17, 2009, the Air Transportation Association, joined by United, Continental and American Airlines, filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdoms High Court of Justice challenging regulations that transpose into UK law the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as applied to U.S. carriers as violating international law due to the extra-territorial reach of the scheme and as an improper tax. In June 2010, the case was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (Case C-366/10) and the parties filed their Written Observations with the court in November 2010.
Other Legal Proceedings
The Company is involved in various other claims and legal actions involving passengers, customers, suppliers, employees and government agencies arising in the ordinary course of business. Additionally, from time to time, the Company becomes aware of potential non-compliance with applicable environmental regulations, which have either been identified by the Company (through internal compliance programs such as its environmental compliance audits) or through notice from a governmental entity. In some instances, these matters could potentially become the subject of an administrative or judicial proceeding and could potentially involve monetary sanctions. After considering a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the views of legal counsel, the nature of contingencies to which the Company is subject and prior experience, management believes that the ultimate disposition of these contingencies will not materially affect its consolidated financial position or results of operations.
UAL common stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) beginning on October 1, 2010 under the symbol UAL. Prior to October 1, 2010, UAL common stock was listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market (NASDAQ) under the symbol UAUA. The following table sets forth the ranges of high and low sales prices per share of UAL common stock during the last two fiscal years, as reported by the NASDAQ for 2009 through the third quarter of 2010 and as reported by the NYSE thereafter.
There is no trading market for the common stock of United. Following the effective date of the Merger, Continental became a wholly owned subsidiary of UAL and there is no longer a trading market for the common stock of Continental. UAL, United and Continental did not pay any dividends in 2010 or 2009. Under the provisions of the UAL and United Amended Credit Facility and the terms of certain of the Companys other debt agreements, UALs ability to pay dividends on or repurchase UALs common stock is restricted. However, UAL may undertake $243 million in stockholder dividends or other distributions without any additional prepayment of the Amended Credit Facility, provided that all covenants within the Amended Credit Facility are met. The Amended Credit Facility provides that UAL and United can carry out further stockholder dividends or other distributions in an amount equal to future term loan prepayments, provided the covenants are met. In addition, under the provisions of the indentures governing the United Senior Notes and the 6.75% Notes, the ability of United and Continental to pay dividends is restricted. See Note 14 to the financial statements for more information related to dividend restrictions under the Amended Credit Facility, the United Senior Notes and the 6.75% Notes. Any future determination regarding dividend or distribution payments will be at the discretion of the Board of Directors, subject to applicable limitations under Delaware law.
Based on reports by UALs transfer agent for its common stock, there were approximately 28,600 record holders of its common stock as of February 15, 2011.
The following graph shows the cumulative total shareholder return for UALs common stock during the period from February 2, 2006 (the date UAL Corporation emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection) to December 31, 2010. The graph also shows the cumulative returns of the Standard and Poors (S&P) 500 Index and the NYSE Arca Airline Index (AAI) of 13 investor-owned airlines. The comparison assumes $100 was invested on February 2, 2006 (the date UAL common stock began trading on an exchange) in UAL common stock and in each of the indices shown and assumes that all dividends paid were reinvested.
Note: The stock price performance shown in the graph above should not be considered indicative of potential future stock price performance.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, repurchases of UAL common stock totaled 25,972 shares at an average price of $24.65 per share. These shares were withheld from employees to satisfy certain tax obligations due upon the vesting of restricted stock. UAL does not have an active share repurchase program.
In connection with its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, UAL applied fresh-start accounting for reorganization, effective February 1, 2006. As a result of the adoption of fresh-start accounting, the financial statements prior to February 1, 2006 are not comparable with the financial statements after February 1, 2006. References to Successor Company refer to UAL on or after February 1, 2006, after giving effect to the adoption of fresh-start reporting. References to Predecessor Company refer to UAL prior to February 1, 2006. UALs consolidated financial statements and statistical data provided in the tables below include the results of Continental for the period from October 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.
UAL Selected Operating Data
Presented below is the Companys operating data for the years ended December 31. The 2010 operating data includes results of Continental after the Merger.
Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures
Non-GAAP financial measures are presented because they provide management and investors with the ability to measure and monitor UALs performance on a consistent basis. Special items relate to activities that are not central to UALs ongoing operations or are unusual in nature. Additionally, both the cost and availability of fuel are subject to many economic and political factors beyond our control. CASM excluding special charges,
aircraft fuel and related taxes provides management and investors the ability to measure UALs cost performance absent special items and fuel price volatility. Fuel hedge mark to market (MTM) gains (losses) are excluded as UAL did not apply cash flow hedge accounting for many of the periods presented, and these adjustments provide a better comparison to UALs peers, most of which apply cash flow hedge accounting. A reconciliation of GAAP to Non-GAAP measures is provided below (in millions, except CASM amounts). Following this reconciliation is a summary of special charges. For further information related to special charges, see Note 21 in Item 8 of this report.
United Continental Holdings, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, UAL) is a holding company and its principal, wholly-owned subsidiaries are United Air Lines, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, United) and, effective October 1, 2010, Continental Airlines, Inc. (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, Continental). Upon closing of the Merger UAL Corporation changed its name to United Continental Holdings, Inc. We sometimes use the words we, our, us, and the Company in this Form 10-K for disclosures that relate to all of UAL, United and Continental.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K is a combined report of UAL, United, and Continental including their respective consolidated financial statements. As UAL consolidates United and Continental for financial statement purposes, disclosures that relate to United activities also apply to UAL and disclosures that relate to Continental activities after the Merger closing date also apply to UAL, unless otherwise noted. When appropriate, UAL, United and Continental are named specifically for their related activities and disclosures.
2010 Financial Highlights
2010 Operational Highlights
Set forth below is a discussion of the principal matters that we believe could impact our financial and operating performance and cause our results of operations in future periods to differ materially from our historical operating results and/or from our anticipated results of operations described in our forward-looking statements in this report. See Item 1A, Risk Factors, for further discussion of these and other factors that could affect us.
Economic Conditions. The severe global economic recession significantly diminished the demand for air travel resulting in a difficult financial environment for U.S. network carriers in 2008 and 2009. UALs financial performance improved significantly in 2010 primarily as a result of improving global economic conditions. Although we continue to see indications that the airline industry is experiencing a recovery, including strengthening demand and improving revenue, we cannot predict whether the demand for air travel will continue to improve or the rate of such improvement. Worsening economic conditions resulting in diminished demand for air travel may impair our ability to sustain the profitability we achieved in 2010.
Merger Integration. UAL expects the Merger to deliver $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies on a run-rate basis by 2013, including between $800 million and $900 million of incremental annual revenues, in large part from expanded customer options resulting from the greater scope and scale of the network, fleet optimization and additional international service enabled by a broader combined network. UAL expects to realize between $200 million and $300 million of net cost synergies on a run-rate basis by 2013. In addition, UAL expects that approximately 25% of its gross synergies will be realized in 2011.
The Company also expects to incur a significant amount of additional substantial merger-related expenses and charges. There are many factors that could affect the total amount or the timing of those expenses and charges, and many of the expenses and charges that will be incurred are, by their nature, uncertain and difficult to estimate accurately. See Note 1 and Note 21 to the financial statements in Item 8 and Item 1A, Risk Factors, for additional information.
Since the closing of the Merger, the Company has taken significant steps toward the operational integration of United and Continental. The Company has begun to optimize the gauge and frequency of its fleet in order to meet travel demand and capitalize on its combined global network efficiently. The introduction of new services to markets previously not served by either carrier allows the Company to meet the passenger demand created through the larger, more comprehensive network. The Company is also aligning revenue management and pricing systems, as well as inventory management strategies, allowing it to create new revenue opportunities and other efficiencies for the combined company. In addition, the Company has begun to align its employee incentive programs, including its on-time bonus, perfect attendance and profit sharing programs.
During 2011 and into 2012, the Company expects to continue to harmonize into the new United brand the products and services offered by its two carriers. The harmonization will involve streamlined customer policies, aligned check-in and boarding procedures, migration to a single reservations system, and linkage of loyalty program accounts until the introduction of a combined loyalty program for 2012, among other events. The Company continues to integrate its operations and, by the end of the second quarter of 2011, expects to be co-located at more than 35 airports, including all of its hubs. By the end of 2011, the Company expects to receive a single operating certificate for United and Continental from the FAA. The Company has begun the transition to selected information technology platforms that support its commercial and operational processes, which is expected to take more than one year to complete.
Fuel Costs. Fuel costs were less volatile in 2010 as compared to recent years; however, prices increased significantly late in 2010 and in the first two months of 2011. UALs average aircraft fuel price per gallon including related taxes and excluding hedge impact was $2.35 in 2010 as compared to $1.84 in 2009. If fuel prices rise significantly from their current levels, we may be unable to raise fares or other fees sufficiently to fully offset our increased costs. In addition, high fuel prices may impair our ability to sustain the profitability we achieved in 2010. Based on projected fuel consumption in 2011, a one dollar change in the price of a barrel of crude oil would change UALs annual fuel expense by approximately $100 million, assuming there are no changes to the crude oil to aircraft fuel refining margins and no impact from our fuel hedging program. To protect against increases in the prices of fuel, the Company routinely hedges a portion of its future fuel requirements, provided the hedges are expected to be cost effective. See Note 13 to the financial statements in Item 8 for additional details regarding the Companys hedging activities.
Additional Revenue-Generating and Cost Saving Measures. We intend to offer additional goods and services relating to air travel, a portion of which will come from the unbundling of our current product and a portion of which will come from future goods and services that we do not presently offer. The revenues that we derive from these products and services, which are generally referred to as ancillary revenues, typically have higher margins than that of our core transportation services and are an important element of our strategy to sustain the profitability that we achieved in 2010. The unbundling of our current products and services permits our customers flexibility in selecting the products and services they wish to purchase. An example of a new service that we have introduced is Continentals FareLock, introduced in December 2010, which is an option that offers customers the opportunity, for a fee, to hold reservations and lock-in ticket prices for either 72 hours or seven days with no commitment to purchase a ticket.
Additionally, we expect to continue to invest in technology that is designed to both assist customers with self-service and allow us to make better operational decisions, while lowering our operating costs.
Capacity. We announced new service to several international destinations in 2010, including Lagos, Nigeria, Cairo, Egypt and Auckland, New Zealand. We do not anticipate significant capacity growth in 2011 unless the level of demand for air travel, economic conditions and the expected financial benefit sufficiently justify such growth. We expect only modest capacity growth for 2011, with both our mainline and consolidated capacity increasing between 1.0% and 2.0%. We expect consolidated domestic capacity to decrease between 0.5% and 1.5% and consolidated international capacity to increase between 4.5% and 5.5%. Should fuel prices increase significantly, we would likely adjust our capacity plans downward.
Our future ability to grow or improve our efficiency could be adversely impacted by manufacturer delays in aircraft deliveries. We have not received a revised 787 delivery schedule, but we currently expect the first of our Boeing 787 aircraft to be delivered in the first half of 2012.
Labor Costs. Our ability to achieve and sustain profitability also depends on continuing our efforts to implement and maintain a more competitive cost structure. As of December 31, 2010, United and Continental had approximately 82% and 60%, respectively, of employees represented by unions. All of Uniteds union-represented employees and 53% of Continentals union-represented employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements that are currently amendable. We are in the process of negotiating amended collective bargaining agreements with our employee groups. The Company cannot predict the outcome of negotiations with its unionized employee groups, although significant increases in the pay and benefits resulting from new collective bargaining agreements could have an adverse financial impact on the Company. See Note 17 to the financial statements in Item 8 and Item 1, Business, for additional information.
Results of Operations
To provide a more meaningful comparison of UALs 2010 financial performance to 2009, we have quantified the increases relating to our operating results that are due to Continental operations after the Merger closing date. The increases due to the Merger, presented in the tables below, represent actual Continental results for the fourth quarter of 2010. The discussion of UALs results excludes the impact of Continentals results in the fourth quarter of 2010. Intercompany transactions were immaterial.
2010 compared to 2009
The table below illustrates the year-over-year percentage change in UALs operating revenues for the years ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):
The table below presents UALs passenger revenues and selected operating data based on geographic region:
Excluding the impact of the Merger, consolidated passenger revenue in 2010 increased approximately $2.9 billion, or 21%, as compared to 2009. These increases were due to increases of 19.0% and 16.1% in average fare and yield, respectively, over the same period as a result of strengthening economic conditions and industry capacity discipline. An increase in volume in 2010, as measured by passenger volume, also contributed to the increase in revenues in 2010 as compared to 2009. The revenue improvement in 2010 was also driven by the return of business and international premium cabin passengers whose higher ticket prices combined to increase average fares and yields. The international regions in particular had the largest increases in demand with international passenger revenue per ASM increasing 29.9% on a 1.8% increase in capacity. Passenger revenue in 2010 included approximately $250 million of additional revenue due to changes in the Companys estimate and methodology related to loyalty program accounting as noted in Critical Accounting Policies, below.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, cargo revenue increased by $177 million, or 33%, in 2010 as compared to 2009, primarily due to improved economic conditions resulting in improved traffic and yield. UALs freight ton miles improved by 22.1% in 2010 as compared to 2009, while mail ton miles dropped approximately 8.8% during the same period, for a composite cargo traffic gain of 18.3%. Freight yields in 2010 were 15.0% better than in 2009 due to stronger freight traffic, reduced industry capacity and numerous tactical rate recovery initiatives, particularly in UALs Pacific markets. On a composite basis, cargo yield in 2010 increased 12.6% as compared to 2009.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, other operating revenue was up 14% in 2010, as compared to 2009, which was primarily due to growth in ancillary passenger-related charges such as baggage fees.
2009 compared to 2008
The table below illustrates the year-over-year percentage change in UALs operating revenues for the years ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):
The table below presents UALs passenger revenues and selected operating data based on geographic region:
Consistent with the rest of the airline industry, UALs decline in PRASM was partially driven by a precipitous decline in worldwide travel demand as a result of the severe global recession. Two key factors had a distinct impact on UALs revenue during 2009. First, network composition played a role in overall unit revenue decline. International markets, in particular the Pacific region, experienced more significant unit revenue declines as compared to the other regions. Given UALs significant international network and its historic relative contribution to passenger revenue, UALs revenue was significantly impacted by the contraction in travel demand in the Pacific. Second, while demand generally declined across all geographic regions, premium and business demand declined more significantly than leisure demand. As UALs business model is strongly aligned to serve premium and business travelers, both internationally and domestically, the decrease in travel by business travelers and the buy-down from premium class to economy class by some business travelers caused a significant negative impact on UALs results in 2009.
In 2009, consolidated yield decreased 14.7% as compared to 2008, while consolidated average fare per passenger decreased 15.4% in the same period. The yield and average fare decreases were primarily a result of the weak economic environment in 2009 and the resulting adverse economic impacts on UAL, as discussed above. Consolidated revenue was also negatively impacted by lower volumes of traffic due to the effects of the severe global recession.
Consolidated revenues were favorably impacted in 2009 by an adjustment of approximately $36 million related to certain tax accruals that were previously recorded as a reduction of revenue. This adjustment was recorded as a result of new information received by UAL related to these tax matters.
Cargo revenue declined by $318 million, or 37%, in 2009 as compared to 2008, due to four key factors. First, United took significant steps to rationalize its capacity, with reduced international capacity affecting a number of key cargo markets. Second, as noted by industry statistical releases during 2009, virtually all carriers in the industry, including United, were sharply impacted by reduced air freight and mail volumes driven by lower recessionary demand, with the resulting oversupply of cargo capacity putting pressure on industry pricing in nearly all markets. Some of the largest industry demand reductions occurred in the Pacific cargo market, where United has a greater cargo capacity as compared to the Atlantic, Latin and Domestic cargo markets. Third, lower fuel costs in 2009 also reduced cargo revenue through lower fuel surcharges on cargo shipments as compared to 2008 when historically high fuel prices occurred. Finally, United, historically one of the largest carriers of U.S. international mail, was impacted by lower mail volumes and pricing beginning in third quarter of 2009 arising from U.S. international mail deregulation. The deregulation moved pricing from regulated rates set by the DOT to market-based pricing as a result of a competitive bidding process.
In 2009, the increase in other operating revenues was primarily due to an increase in ancillary passenger-related revenues, which includes baggage fees and other unbundled services. For the full year of 2009, ancillary passenger-related revenues totaled approximately $1.1 billion.
2010 compared to 2009
The table below includes data related to UALs operating expenses for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):
The increase in aircraft fuel expense was primarily attributable to increased market prices for fuel, as shown in the table below which reflects the significant changes in aircraft fuel cost per gallon for the year ended December 31, 2010 as compared to the year ended December 31, 2009. The 2010 amounts presented in the table below exclude the impact of Continentals results after the closing date of the Merger. See Note 13 to the financial statements in Item 8 for additional details regarding gains and losses from settled positions and unrealized gains and losses at the end of the period.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, salaries and related costs increased $297 million, or 8%, in 2010 as compared to 2009. The increase was primarily due to increased accruals for profit sharing and other annual incentive plans. In 2010, UALs accrual for profit sharing was $166 million. Expense for the plan was not accrued in 2009 as the profit sharing and other incentive plan payouts were not earned based on UALs adjusted pre-tax losses.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, regional capacity purchase expense increased $87 million, or 6%, in 2010 as compared to 2009 primarily due to an increase in capacity in the same period.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, distribution expenses increased $86 million, or 13%, in 2010 as compared to 2009 primarily due to an increase in passenger revenue on higher traffic and yields driving increases in commissions, credit card fees and GDS fees.
Excluding the impact of the Merger, aircraft rent expense decreased by $20 million, or 6%, in 2010 as compared to 2009, primarily as a result of Uniteds retirement of its entire fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, some of which were financed through operating leases. This fleet retirement was completed during 2009.
Merger-related Costs and Special Charges.
The table below presents asset impairments, merger-related costs and special items incurred by UAL during the years ended December 31 (in millions):
See Note 21 to the financial statements in Item 8 for additional information related to special charges.
Merger-related costs consist of charges related to the Merger and include costs related to the planning and execution of the Merger, including costs for items such as financial advisor, legal and other advisory fees. Also included in merger-related costs are salary and severance related costs that are primarily associated with administrative headcount reductions and compensation costs related to the Merger. Merger-related costs also include integration costs, costs to terminate certain service contracts that will not be used by the combined company, costs to write-off system assets that are no longer used or planned to be used by the combined company and payments to third-party consultants to assist with integration planning and organization design. See Notes 1 and 21 to the financial statements in Item 8 for additional information.
The aircraft impairments in 2010 and 2009 are primarily related to a decrease in the estimated market value of UALs nonoperating Boeing 737 and 747 aircraft. In 2010, UAL recorded a $29 million impairment ($18 million net of taxes) of its indefinite-lived Brazil routes due to an estimated decrease in the value of these routes as a result of the new open skies agreement.
During 2010, UAL determined it overstated its deferred tax liabilities by approximately $64 million when it applied fresh start accounting upon its exit from bankruptcy in 2006. Under applicable standards in 2008, this error would have been corrected with a decrease to goodwill, which would have resulted in a decrease in the amount of UALs 2008 goodwill impairment charge. Therefore, UAL corrected this overstatement in the fourth quarter of 2010 by reducing its deferred tax liabilities and recorded it as a goodwill impairment credit in its
consolidated statement of operations. The adjustment was not made to prior periods as UAL does not believe the correction is material to the current or any prior period.
In 2009, UAL recorded a $150 million intangible asset impairment ($95 million net of taxes) to decrease the value of Uniteds tradename, which was primarily due to a decrease in estimated future revenues resulting from the weak economic environment and Uniteds capacity reductions, among other factors.
In 2009, UAL recorded special charges of $27 million related to the final settlement of the LAX municipal bond litigation and $104 million primarily related to Boeing 737 aircraft lease terminations.
During the fourth quarter of 2010, UAL recorded $130 million to other operating expense, $65 million each for United and Continental, due to revenue sharing obligations related to the trans-Atlantic joint venture with Lufthansa and Air Canada. This expense relates to UALs payments for the first nine months of 2010, prior to contract execution.
2009 compared to 2008
UALs mainline capacity decreased 9.7% in 2009 as compared to 2008. The capacity reduction had a significantly favorable impact on certain UAL operating expenses, as further described below. The table below includes data related to UALs operating expenses for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):
The decrease in aircraft fuel expense was primarily attributable to decreased market prices for fuel, as shown in the table below, which reflects the significant changes in fuel cost per gallon in 2009 as compared to 2008. Lower mainline fuel consumption due to the mainline capacity reductions also benefited mainline fuel expense in 2009 as compared to the prior year. Prior to April 1, 2010, UAL did not designate any of its fuel hedge contracts under applicable accounting standards. Therefore, UAL marked-to-market changes in the fair value of its contracts through fuel expense in the case of economic hedges and through nonoperating expense in the case of hedges that were not considered to be economic hedges. The majority of the combined $1.1 billion of fuel hedge losses in 2008 was due to mark-to-market losses on open fuel hedge contracts at December 31, 2008. These contracts cash settled in 2009. These significant losses occurred because certain UAL hedge instruments required payments by UAL to the counterparty if fuel prices fell below specified floors or strike prices in the hedge contracts. Crude oil peaked at approximately $145 per barrel in July 2008 and subsequently fell to around $45 per barrel in December 2008. The hedge contract prices at which UAL was required to make payments to its counterparties were well above $45 per barrel, resulting in significant losses on the hedge contracts.
Salaries and related costs decreased $533 million, or 12%, in 2009 as compared to 2008. The decrease was primarily due to UALs reduced workforce in 2009 compared to 2008. UAL had approximately 43,700 average full-time equivalent employees for the year ended December 31, 2009 as compared to 49,600 for the year ended December 31, 2008. A $73 million decrease in severance expense related to UALs operational plans and a $92 million year-over-year benefit due to changes in employee benefit expenses also contributed to the decrease in salaries and related costs. Salaries and related costs also decreased by $46 million due to UALs Success Sharing Program. UAL did not record any expense for this plan in 2009. Partially offsetting these benefits were the impacts of average wage and benefit cost increases and a $38 million increase related to on-time performance bonuses paid to operations employee groups during 2009, which were not paid in 2008.
The increase in regional capacity purchase expense of 10% in 2009 as compared to 2008 is consistent with the 11% increase in regional capacity during the same period.
Landing fees and other rent increased $57 million, or 6%, in 2009 as compared to 2008 primarily due to higher rates.
During 2009, aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs decreased by $131 million, or 12%, as compared to the prior year primarily due to a lower volume of engine and airframe maintenance repairs as a result of Uniteds early retirement of 100 aircraft from its operating fleet and the timing of maintenance on other fleet types.
Distribution expenses decreased $176 million, or 21%, in 2009 as compared to 2008 primarily due to lower passenger revenues on lower traffic and yields driving reductions in commissions, credit card fees and GDS fees. UAL also implemented several operating cost savings programs for both commissions and GDS fees which produced realized savings in 2009.
Aircraft rent expense decreased by $63 m