United CEO estimates airline will see smaller financial hit from omicron than delta

A United Airlines ERJ-170 makes a landing approach at Ronald Reagan National Airport seen at Gravelly Point in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday, March 30, 2021.
Greg Nash

The chief executive officer of United Airlines during an interview with CNBC on Wednesday estimated that while the omicron variant might affect their bookings and revenue, the airline would ultimately suffer a smaller hit than it during the delta wave.

“We’ve said … the recovery from COVID will never be a straight line … Omicron is almost certainly — it’s too early to really tell, but it’s going to certainly have a near-term impact on bookings. Bookings are going to be lower than they otherwise would have been,” United CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC.

“But you know, I think this will be three steps forward, one step backwards. Delta was two steps forward, and one step back, and the next variable will be four steps forward and one back. We’re much better at dealing with this as a society,” he continued.

Kirby estimated that the vaccines would likely be effective at curbing the spread of the new variant, and he noted that even though the airlines might see a small dip in revenue, “the dip will be much smaller than it was for delta.”

Kirby’s comments come as airlines determine how to tackle the emergence of the newly detected omicron variant, which has made its way into a number of countries within the span of days. Several countries have instituted travel restrictions to curb spread of the variant.

The first case of omicron found in the U.S. was detected on Wednesday in California. Health officials previously noted that the variant would likely make its way into the country given its prevalence in southern Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

Health officials have pleaded with Americans to get their vaccines if they have not done so already and to get their booster shots if they are eligible. 

“[T]he fact is that people should wind up getting vaccinated and boosted if they’re eligible for a boost. I keep coming back to that because that’s really the solution to this problem,” President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday.

Tags Airline industry Anthony Fauci Anthony Fauci COVID-19 Joe Biden omicron Scott Kirby travel United Airlines

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video