United Airlines Parent Ekes Out $6M Profit in July

United Airlines' (search) parent company said in a bankruptcy-court filing Thursday that it eked out a $6 million net profit last month during the middle of the busy summer travel season.

UAL Corp. (UAL), which has angered employees by threatening to terminate its pension plans as it tries to attract bankruptcy-exit financing, expressed disappointment that the earnings total wasn't higher in a month when its planes were 84.8 percent full. The result, however, reflected an improvement over the same month a year ago when it reported a $112 million loss.

"July is normally one of our most profitable months, and the fact that we were only able to deliver a modest net profit underscores the ongoing challenge of record-high fuel prices exacerbated by a weak revenue environment," chief financial officer Jake Brace said in a statement accompanying the monthly operating report.

"The great work of our employees and the ongoing restructuring efforts helped us narrowly clear the fuel hurdle to record a small profit," Brace said. "But we have much more work to do to make United a sustainable, competitive airline moving forward."

The company reported an operating profit of $51 million for the month on passenger revenue that was 1 percent higher than in July 2003. The net profit came despite $14 million in reorganization expenses.

It said it ended July with $2.1 billion in cash — about $1.3 billion of it unrestricted — reflecting a decrease of $153 million from a month earlier.

United said last week that the increase in oil prices will result in it spending $500 million more on jet fuel this year than it projected just last December.