Form 10-K
Table of Contents

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

 

FORM 10-K

 

 

 

x ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012

OR

 

¨ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the transition period from                      to                     

 

Commission

File Number

 

Exact Name of Registrant as

Specified in its Charter, Principal

Office Address and

Telephone Number

 

State of

Incorporation

 

I.R.S. Employer

Identification No

001-06033

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc. 233 South Wacker Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60606

(312) 997-8000

  Delaware   36-2675207

001-11355

 

United Air Lines, Inc.

233 South Wacker Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60606

(312) 997-8000

  Delaware   36-2675206

001-10323

 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

233 South Wacker Drive

Chicago, Illinois 60606

(312) 997-8000

  Delaware   74-2099724

 

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

    

Title of Each Class

 

Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

    Common Stock, $0.01 par value     New York Stock Exchange

United Air Lines, Inc.

    None     None

Continental Airlines, Inc.

    None     None

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

 

  

        United Continental Holdings, Inc.

     None      
  

        United Air Lines, Inc.

     None      
  

        Continental Airlines, Inc.

     None      

 

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act.

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Yes  x    No  ¨   

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 Registrant’s 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.

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.            

  x   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  x   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  x   

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

United Continental

Holdings, Inc.

  Large accelerated filer  x   Accelerated filer  ¨   Non-accelerated filer  ¨   Smaller reporting company  ¨

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Large accelerated filer  ¨   Accelerated filer  ¨   Non-accelerated filer  x   Smaller reporting company  ¨

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Large accelerated filer  ¨   Accelerated filer  ¨   Non-accelerated filer  x   Smaller reporting company  ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).

 

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   
 

United Air Lines, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   
 

Continental Airlines, Inc.

  Yes  ¨    No  x   

The aggregate market value of voting stock held by non-affiliates of United Continental Holdings, Inc. was $8,062,585,445 as of June 30, 2012. There is no market for United Air Lines, Inc. common stock or Continental Airlines, Inc. common stock.

Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the issuer’s classes of common stock, as of February 7, 2013.

 

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

   332,635,139 shares of common stock ($0.01 par value)

United Air Lines, Inc.

   205 (100% owned by United Continental Holdings, Inc.)

Continental Airlines, Inc.

   1,000 (100% owned by United Continental Holdings, Inc.)

This combined Form 10-K is separately filed by United Continental Holdings, Inc., United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc.

OMISSION OF CERTAIN INFORMATION

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 and 13 of Part III of this Form 10-K are incorporated by reference for United Continental Holdings, Inc. from its definitive proxy statement for its 2013 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.


Table of Contents

United Continental Holdings, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies

United Air Lines, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies

Continental Airlines, Inc. and Subsidiary Companies

Report o n Form 10-K

For the Year Ended December 31, 2012

 

                  Page          
   PART I   

Item 1.

   Business      3   

Item 1A.

   Risk Factors      13   

Item 1B.

   Unresolved Staff Comments      23   

Item 2.

   Properties      24   

Item 3.

   Legal Proceedings      26   

Item 4.

   Mine Safety Disclosures      28   
     
   PART II   

Item 5.

   Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities      29   

Item 6.

   Selected Financial Data      31   

Item 7.

   Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations      35   

Item 7A.

   Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk      62   

Item 8.

   Financial Statements and Supplementary Data      65   
   Combined Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements      86   

Item 9.

   Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure      152   

Item 9A.

   Controls and Procedures      152   

Item 9B.

   Other Information      155   
     
   PART III   

Item 10.

   Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance      155   

Item 11.

   Executive Compensation      157   

Item 12.

   Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters      157   

Item 13.

   Certain Relationships, Related Transactions and Director Independence      157   

Item 14.

   Principal Accountant Fees and Services      157   
     
   PART IV   

Item 15.

   Exhibits, Financial Statements and Schedules      159   

 

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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 Company’s 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, Management’s 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.

PART I

 

ITEM 1. BUSINESS.

Overview

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 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.

This Annual Report on Form 10-K is a combined report of UAL, United and Continental. 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 consolidated United and Continental beginning October 1, 2010 for financial statement purposes, disclosures that relate to United or Continental activities also apply to UAL, unless otherwise noted. 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 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60606 (telephone number (312) 997-8000).

The Company’s website is www.unitedcontinentalholdings.com. The information contained on or connected to the Company’s website 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 Company’s 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 SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.

Merger Integration

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 United and Continental and UAL Corporation’s name was changed to United Continental Holdings, Inc. UAL’s consolidated financial statements include the results of operations of Continental and its subsidiaries for the period subsequent to October 1, 2010.

 

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Integration-related 2012 accomplishments include:

 

   

The Company made significant progress in integrating its products, services, policies and a number of information technology systems. Following the conversion of its passenger service system in March 2012, the Company now has a single loyalty program, MileagePlus, and a single website, united.com. Continental’s OnePass loyalty program formally ended in the first quarter of 2012, at which point United automatically enrolled OnePass members in the MileagePlus program and deposited into those MileagePlus accounts award miles equal to OnePass members’ award miles balance. As a result of the conversion to a single passenger service system, the Company now operates using a single reservations system, carrier code, flight schedule, website and departure control system;

 

   

The Company continued to redeploy aircraft across its global network, better matching aircraft and demand on a route by route basis; and

 

   

The United and Continental pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (“ALPA”) ratified a new joint collective bargaining agreement with the Company.

Some key initiatives for the Company in 2013 include maintaining reliable operational performance, investing in customer service training and tools for its frontline co-workers, completing the installation of flat-bed seats in the premium cabins of its international widebody aircraft, installing global satellite based WiFi on approximately 300 of its mainline aircraft, and reaching competitive joint collective bargaining agreements with its union-represented employee groups.

See Notes 1 and 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report and Item 1A, Risk Factors, for additional information on the Merger.

Operations

Network. The Company transports people and cargo through its mainline operations, which use jet aircraft with at least 110 seats, and its regional operations. See Item 2, Properties, for a description of the Company’s mainline and regional aircraft.

With key global air rights in the U.S., Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, UAL has the world’s most comprehensive global route network. UAL, through United and Continental and their regional carriers, operates more than 5,500 daily flights to more than 375 U.S. and international destinations from the Company’s hubs at Newark Liberty International Airport (“Newark Liberty”), Chicago O’Hare International Airport (“Chicago O’Hare”), Denver International Airport (“Denver”), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (“Houston Bush”), Hopkins International Airport (“Cleveland Hopkins”), Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”), A.B. Won Pat International Airport (“Guam”), San Francisco International Airport (“SFO”) and Washington Dulles International Airport (“Washington Dulles”).

All of the Company’s 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 is a member of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline network.

Regional. The Company has contractual relationships with various regional carriers to provide regional jet and turboprop service branded as United Express. These regional operations are an extension of the Company’s mainline network. This regional service complements our operations by carrying traffic that connects to our mainline service and allows flights to smaller cities that cannot be provided economically with mainline aircraft. Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines (“Republic”), CommutAir Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines, GoJet Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Shuttle America, SkyWest Airlines (“SkyWest”) and Trans States Airlines (“Trans States”) are all regional carriers, which operate most of their capacity under capacity purchase agreements with United and/or

 

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Continental. Under these capacity purchase 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 fees for 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 by the regional carrier to the Company without any markup. In return, the regional carriers operate this capacity exclusively for United and/or Continental, on schedules determined by the Company. The Company also determines pricing and revenue management, assumes the inventory and distribution risk for the available seats, and permits mileage accrual and redemption for regional flights through its MileagePlus program.

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”), Silver Airways (“Silver”), SkyWest and Trans States. Under these commercial flying agreements, the Company and its regional carriers agree to divide revenue collected from each passenger according to a formula, while both the Company and its regional carriers 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, and in most cases, market selection, local seat pricing and inventory for its flights, although the Company and its regional carriers may coordinate schedules to maximize connections.

Financial information on the Company’s operating revenues by geographic regions, as reported to the U.S. Department of Transportation (the “DOT”), can be found in 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 by providing greater time of day coverage to common destinations, additional mileage accrual and redemption opportunities, and access to markets that United and Continental do not serve directly. These marketing alliances typically include one or more of the following features: loyalty program reciprocity; codesharing of flight operations (whereby seats on one carrier’s 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 is a member of Star Alliance, a global integrated airline network co-founded by United in 1997 and the largest and most comprehensive airline alliance in the world. As of January 1, 2013, Star Alliance carriers served 1,329 airports in 194 countries with over 21,900 daily flights. Current Star Alliance members, in addition to United, are Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca/Taca Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EGYPTAIR, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAM Airlines, TAP Portugal, THAI Airways International, Turkish Airlines and US Airways. Star Alliance has announced that EVA Air will be a future Star Alliance member. On February 14, 2013, US Airways announced an agreement to merge with AMR Corporation and its intent to exit Star Alliance as a result of such merger.

United, Continental, Air Canada and the Lufthansa Group (which includes Lufthansa and its affiliates Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and SWISS) participate in a joint venture agreement covering trans-Atlantic routes. The joint venture, which enables the carriers to integrate the services they operate between the United States and Europe and to capture revenue synergies, delivers highly competitive flight schedules, fares and services. The joint venture has a revenue-sharing structure that will result in payments among participants based on a formula that compares current period unit revenue performance on trans-Atlantic routes to a historic period, or “baseline,” which is reset annually. The payments are calculated on a quarterly basis and are subject to a cap. See Industry Regulation below. The European Commission, which has been conducting a standard review of the competitive effects of the joint venture, has not yet completed its review.

 

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United, Continental and All Nippon Airways participate in a joint venture agreement covering certain trans-Pacific routes between the United States and Japan, and other destinations in Asia. The joint venture, which enables the carriers to integrate the services they operate between the United States and Asia and to capture revenue synergies, delivers highly competitive flight schedules, fares and services. 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 certain trans-Pacific routes to a historic period, or “baseline”. The payments will be calculated on a quarterly basis and are subject to an annual cap.

In 2010, United, Continental and Air Canada entered into a memorandum of understanding to establish a revenue sharing trans-border joint venture. The parties subsequently drafted a joint venture agreement based on the trans-Atlantic joint venture agreement among United, Continental, Air Canada and the Lufthansa Group. On October 24, 2012, United, Continental and Air Canada reached a Consent Agreement with the Canadian Competition Bureau settling litigation related to the proposed joint venture which will allow its implementation and full coordination among the parties, with certain exceptions on a limited number of non-stop routes. United, Continental and Air Canada already have U.S. antitrust immunity. A definitive joint venture agreement has not yet been finalized.

United and Continental currently maintain independent marketing agreements with other air carriers including Aeromar, Aer Lingus, Cape Air, EVA Air, Great Lakes Airlines, Silver, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, and Jet Airways. In addition, United offers a train-to-plane alliance with Amtrak from Newark Liberty to select regional destinations.

Loyalty Program. United’s MileagePlus program builds customer loyalty by offering awards and services to program participants. Members in this program earn mileage credit for flights on United, Continental, United Express, airlines in Star Alliance and certain other airlines that participate in the program. Members can also earn miles by purchasing the goods and services of our network of non-airline partners, such as credit card issuers, retail merchants, hotels and car rental companies. Members can redeem mileage credits for free, discounted or upgraded travel and non-travel awards.

Under the Company’s Consolidated Amended and Restated Co-Branded Card Marketing Services Agreement dated June 9, 2011 (the “Co-Brand Agreement”) with Chase Bank USA, N.A. (“Chase”), loyalty program members accrue frequent flyer miles for making purchases using co-branded credit cards issued by Chase. The Co-Brand Agreement provides for joint marketing of the Company’s credit card program and provides Chase with other benefits such as permission to market to the Company’s customer database.

In 2012, 4.7 million MileagePlus travel awards were used on United and Continental. These awards represented 7.4% and 6.8% of United’s and Continental’s total revenue passenger miles in 2012, respectively.

Total miles redeemed for travel on United and Continental in 2012, including class-of-service upgrades, represented 83% of the total miles redeemed. In addition, excluding miles redeemed for travel on United and Continental, MileagePlus members redeemed miles for approximately 1.6 million awards in 2012 as compared to 1.8 million in 2011. These non-United and non-Continental travel awards include United Club memberships, car and hotel awards, merchandise and travel on another air carrier. The decrease in the number of non-United and non-Continental travel awards redeemed in 2012 compared to 2011 was due to a decrease in hotel, car and United Club redemptions.

Fuel. Aircraft fuel has been the Company’s single largest and most volatile operating expense for the last several years. The table below summarizes UAL’s aircraft fuel consumption and expense during the last three years.

 

    

  Year

   Gallons
Consumed
(in millions)
     Fuel Expense
(in millions)
     Average Price
Per Gallon
     Percentage of
Total
Operating
Expense (a)
      
    2012      4,016         $ 13,138        $ 3.27          37%      
    2011      4,038         $ 12,375        $ 3.06          36%      
    2010 (b)      2,798         $ 6,687        $ 2.39          30%      

 

 

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  (a) Calculation excludes special charges identified in Note 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report.

 

  (b) Excludes fuel consumption and cost for Continental Predecessor prior to October 1, 2010.

The availability and price of aircraft fuel significantly affect the Company’s operations, results of operations, financial position and liquidity. To provide adequate supplies of fuel, the Company routinely enters into short-term and long-term purchase contracts and has some ability to store fuel close to its major hub locations. To protect against increases in the prices of aircraft fuel, the Company routinely hedges a portion of its future fuel requirements. The Company generally uses commonly used financial hedge instruments based on aircraft fuel or closely related commodities including heating oil, diesel fuel and crude oil.

Third-Party Business. United has third-party business revenue that includes fuel sales, catering, ground handling, maintenance services and frequent flyer award non-air redemptions, and third-party business revenue is recorded in other revenue. The Company has a contract to sell aircraft fuel to a third party which is earnings-neutral but results in revenue and expense, specifically cost of sale which is unrelated to the operation of the airline. United also incurs third-party business expenses, such as maintenance, ground handling and catering services for third parties, fuel sales and non-air mileage redemptions, and those third-party business expenses are recorded in other operating expenses.

Distribution Channels. The majority of the Company’s airline seat inventory continues to be distributed through the traditional channels of travel agencies and global distribution systems (“GDS”). The growing use of the Company’s direct sales website, united.com, the Company’s mobile applications and alternative distribution systems, provides the Company with an opportunity to de-commoditize its services, better control its content, make more targeted offerings, better 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 website and mobile applications and explore alternative distribution channels.

Industry Conditions

Domestic Competition. The domestic airline industry is highly competitive and dynamic. Currently, any U.S. carrier deemed fit by the DOT is free to operate scheduled passenger service between any two points within the United States. The Company’s competitors consist primarily of other airlines and, to a lesser extent, other forms of transportation. 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.

Air carriers’ cost structures are not uniform and there are numerous factors influencing cost structure. Carriers with lower costs may deliver lower fares to passengers, which could have a potential negative impact on the Company’s revenues. In addition, future airline mergers, acquisitions or reorganizations pursuant to Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code may enable airlines to improve their revenue and cost performance relative to peers and thus enhance their competitive position within the industry.

Decisions on domestic pricing are based on intense competitive pressure exerted on the Company by other U.S. airlines. In order to remain competitive and maintain passenger traffic levels, we often find it necessary to match competitors’ discounted fares. Since we compete in a dynamic marketplace, attempts to generate additional revenue through increased fares oftentimes fail.

International Competition. Internationally, the Company competes not only with U.S. airlines, but also with foreign carriers. International competition has increased and may increase in the future as a result of airline mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, alliances, restructurings, liberalization of aviation bilateral agreements and new or increased service by competitors. Competition on international routes is subject to varying degrees of governmental regulation. The Company’s ability to compete successfully with non-U.S. carriers on international routes depends in part on its ability to generate traffic to and from the entire United States via its integrated domestic route network and its ability to overcome business and operational challenges across its network

 

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worldwide. Foreign carriers currently are prohibited by U.S. law from carrying local passengers between two points in the United States and the Company experiences comparable restrictions in foreign countries. In addition, in the absence of open skies and fifth freedom rights, U.S. carriers are 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, joint ventures and marketing arrangements that enable these carriers to exchange traffic between each other’s flights and route networks. See Alliances, above, for further information.

Seasonality. The air travel business is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Historically, demand for air travel is higher in the second and third quarters, driving higher revenues, than in the first and fourth quarters, which are periods of lower travel demand.

Industry Regulation

Domestic Regulation

General. All carriers engaged in air transportation in the United States are subject to regulation by the DOT. Absent an exemption, no air carrier may provide air transportation of passengers or property without first being issued a DOT certificate of public convenience and necessity. The DOT also grants international route authority, approves international codeshare arrangements, and regulates methods of competition. The DOT regulates consumer protection and maintains jurisdiction over advertising, denied boarding compensation, tarmac delays, and baggage liability, and may add additional expensive regulatory burdens in the future.

Airlines are also regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (the “FAA”), an agency within the DOT, primarily in the areas of flight safety, air carrier operations, and aircraft maintenance and airworthiness. The FAA issues air carrier operating certificates and aircraft airworthiness certificates, prescribes maintenance procedures, oversees airport operations, and regulates pilot and other employee training. From time to time, the FAA issues directives that require air carriers to inspect or modify aircraft and other equipment, potentially causing the Company to incur substantial, unplanned expenses. The airline industry is also subject to numerous other federal laws and regulations. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has jurisdiction over virtually every aspect of civil aviation security. See Legislation, below. The Antitrust Division of 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”), a federal statute. The Company is also subject to investigation 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 the Company 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 Newark Liberty. In addition, to address concerns about airport congestion, the FAA has designated certain airports, including Newark 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 Company’s 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 significant 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 Company’s operating costs if imposed on the Company. Congress may pass legislation that could increase labor and operating costs. Recently, Congress has enacted two laws, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act of 2010 and the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which have increased regulation and are likely to cause increased costs in the areas of

 

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airline safety, pilot training, and consumer protection. Climate change legislation is also likely to be a significant area of legislative and regulatory focus and could adversely impact the Company’s costs. See Environmental Regulation, below.

In December 2009, the DOT issued the first of several rules intended to enhance airline passenger protections. The 2009 rule included regulations mandating that major air carriers, including United and Continental, adopt detailed contingency plans and implement procedures applicable to tarmac delays exceeding three hours for domestic flights and four hours for international flights, subject to exceptions for safety and security. In April 2011, the DOT issued a second set of consumer protection regulations. This second initiative imposed regulations requiring carriers to charge the same baggage fee throughout a passenger’s entire itinerary (even if on multiple carriers) and expanded the scope of the tarmac delay rule to cover foreign carriers operating to and from the United States. Although the DOT delayed the enforcement date for its new baggage fee regulations until July 2012, it is now in force and could expose United to DOT enforcement action and civil penalties.

In December 2011, the FAA issued a final rule amending the existing flight, duty, and rest regulations applicable to U.S. air carriers operating under Part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The provisions under the 2011 final rule are likely to negatively impact the Company’s operations and increase the Company’s costs by mandating extensive changes to the way we schedule crews and deploy aircraft. Moreover, in December 2012, the FAA issued a draft policy statement proposing to cede authority over some areas of cabin crewmember workplace safety and health condition oversight to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If this change in policy is finalized, it would expose the Company to increased regulatory requirements in the aircraft cabin, with the potential for increased costs and adverse operational impacts.

Finally, aviation security continues to be the subject of frequent legislative and regulatory action, requiring changes to the Company’s security processes, frequently increasing the cost of its security procedures, and adversely affecting its operations.

International Regulation

General. International air transportation is subject to extensive government regulation. In connection with the Company’s international services, the Company is regulated by both the U.S. government and the governments of the foreign countries the Company serves. 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.

Legislation. Foreign countries are increasingly enacting passenger protection laws, rules and regulations that meet or exceed U.S. requirements. In cases where this activity exceeds U.S. requirements, additional burden and liability may be placed on the Company. The European Union (“EU”) now requires compensation to passengers for canceled and delayed flights, in addition to denied boarding compensation. Similar foreign regulations require passenger compensation and subject the Company to enforcement penalties in addition to changes in operating procedures.

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. However, many of the airports that the Company serves 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, Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, Sao Paulo Guarhulos International Airport, Tokyo Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport are among the most restrictive foreign airports due to capacity limitations. As an example, under the 2010 United States-Japan open skies agreement, only four slot pairs are available in Haneda to U.S. air carriers at this time, none of which is held by the Company.

 

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The Company’s 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 Company’s international route authorities and slot rights may be materially enhanced or diminished.

Environmental Regulation

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 either proposed regulations or implementation of new regulations include regulations surrounding the emission of greenhouse gases (discussed further below), State of California regulations regarding air emissions from ground support equipment, and a federal rule-making seeking to regulate airport fuel hydrant systems under the underground storage tank regulations.

Climate Change. There are certain laws and regulations relating to climate change that apply to the Company, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (“EU ETS”) (which is subject to international dispute), environmental taxes for certain international flights (including the United Kingdom’s Air Passenger Duty and Germany’s departure ticket tax), limited greenhouse gas reporting requirements, and the State of California’s cap and trade regulations (which impacts United’s San Francisco maintenance center). In addition, there are land-based 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 emissions trading scheme. The application of the EU ETS to aviation, including the requirement for foreign airlines to surrender carbon allowances for emissions occurring outside of the EU airspace, has been the subject of significant international dispute among countries, with more than forty non-EU countries having gone on record opposing the scheme.

On November 12, 2012, the EU announced a one-year stay of the requirements for international flights to the EU, which the EU attributed to recent progress by the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) towards a global regulatory program to regulate aviation greenhouse gas emissions. On November 27, 2012, the President of the United States signed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which encourages the DOT to seek an international solution through the ICAO, and if necessary, prohibit U.S. airlines from participation in the EU ETS and take other actions to hold the airlines harmless from the scheme.

The future of the EU ETS legislation as applied to international flights into Europe is uncertain but the Company will continue to monitor developments. The precise cost to the Company should the scheme apply to international flights in the future is difficult to calculate due to a number of variables, including the Company’s future carbon emissions with respect to flights to and from the EU, the price of carbon credits, and whether the DOT will take action to prohibit U.S. airlines from participation in the scheme and hold U.S. airlines harmless from such scheme.

The EU ETS stay has increased international attention in its focus on the ICAO process with the intent to reach an international agreement that would apply to international aviation and prohibit the application of regional schemes. Without an international agreement, there could be other regulatory actions taken in the future by the U.S. government, state governments within the U.S., or foreign governments, 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.

 

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The Company is taking various actions to reduce its carbon emissions through fleet renewal, aircraft retrofits, and actions that are establishing the foundation for the commercialization of aviation biofuels.

Other Environmental Matters. Some U.S. and foreign airports 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 Company’s business.

Employees

As of December 31, 2012, UAL, including its subsidiaries, had approximately 88,000 employees. As of December 31, 2012, United had approximately 47,000 employees and Continental had approximately 41,000 employees. Approximately 80% of the combined Company’s employees were represented by various U.S. labor organizations as of December 31, 2012.

Collective bargaining agreements between the Company and its represented employee groups 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.” The process for integrating the represented employee groups of United and Continental is governed by a combination of the RLA, the McCaskill-Bond Amendment, and where applicable, the existing provisions of United’s and Continental’s 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, consistent with the process set forth in the Allegheny-Mohawk Labor Protective Provisions or internal union merger policies, if applicable. Pending operational integration, the Company will apply the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreements unless other terms have been negotiated.

During 2012, various labor agreements were reached between union representatives and the Company. On December 15, 2012, the pilots for both United and Continental ratified a joint collective bargaining agreement with the Company. In February 2013, the Company reached tentative agreements on new joint collective bargaining agreements with the International Association of Machinists (“IAM”) for the fleet service, passenger service and storekeeper workgroups at the United, Continental, Continental Micronesia and Mileage Plus subsidiaries. The tentative agreements with the IAM cover more than 28,000 employees and are subject to ratification by the IAM members. We are also currently in the process of negotiating joint collective bargaining agreements with all of our other major represented groups. Several other collective bargaining agreements were reached with unions at each of our subsidiaries during 2012, including with the United flight attendants in February 2012, the Continental Micronesia aircraft technicians in May 2012, the Continental pilot ground instructors in June 2012 and the Continental Micronesia flight attendants in August 2012.

 

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The following table reflects the Company’s represented employee groups, number of employees per represented group, union representation for each of United’s and Continental’s employee groups where applicable, amendable date for each employee group’s collective bargaining agreement and whether the group is engaged in negotiations for a joint collective bargaining agreement:

 

Employee

 

Group

 

Subsidiary

   
 
Number of
Employees
  
  
 

Union

 

Contract Open for Amendment

  Common
Union
Representation
Determined
  Joint
Negotiations
in Progress

Flight Attendants

    Association of Flight Attendants     X   X
  Continental     9,547         December 2014    
  Continental Micronesia     239         December 2014    
  United     11,574         February 2016    
   

 

 

         
  Total     21,360            
   

 

 

         

Passenger Service

    Int’l Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers     X   Tentative
Agreement
Reached
February 13,
2013
  Continental     7,179         N/A    
  Continental Micronesia     199         November 2011    
  United     7,894         January 2010    
   

 

 

         
  Total     15,272            
   

 

 

         

Fleet Service

    Int’l Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers     X   Tentative
Agreement
Reached
February 13,
2013
  Continental     6,540         December 2012    
  Continental Micronesia     180         November 2011    
  United     6,613         January 2010    
   

 

 

         
  Total     13,333            
   

 

 

         

Pilots

    Air Line Pilots Association     X   Completed
  Continental     4,641         February 2017    
  United     5,546         February 2017    
   

 

 

         
  Total     10,187            
   

 

 

         

Technicians and Related

    Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters     X   X
  Continental     3,666         December 2012    
  Continental Micronesia     98         December 2012    
  United     4,884         June 2013    
   

 

 

         
  Total     8,648            
   

 

 

         

Stock Clerks

    Int’l Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers     X   Tentative
Agreement
Reached
February 13,
2013
  Continental     229         N/A    
  United     645         January 2010    
   

 

 

         
  Total     874            
   

 

 

         

Dispatchers

          X
  Continental     128       Transport Workers Union   December 2013    
  United     182       Professional Airline Flight Control Association   January 2010    
   

 

 

         
  Total     310            
   

 

 

         

Fleet Tech Instructors

Food Service Employees

Ground Instructors

Maintenance Instructors

Security Officers

    Int’l Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers     X   X
  Continental     22         April 2014    
  United     216         January 2010    
   

 

 

         
  Total     238            
   

 

 

         

Flight Simulator Technicians

        Election in
Progress
 
  Continental     39       Transport Workers Union   December 2012    
  United     56       Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters   July 2013    
   

 

 

         
  Total     95            
   

 

 

         

 

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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 would have an adverse financial impact on the Company.

 

ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS.

The following risk factors should be read carefully when evaluating the Company’s 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 and adversely affect the Company’s 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 Company’s business and operations.

The Merger, described in Item 1, Business, may present certain risks to the Company’s business and operations including, among other things, risks that:

 

   

we may be unable to successfully integrate the businesses and workforces of United and Continental;

 

   

we may be unable to successfully manage the expanded business with respect to monitoring new operations and associated increased costs and complexity;

 

   

we may be unable to avoid potential liabilities and unforeseen increased expenses or delays associated with the Merger and integration, including in connection with any legal merger of United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc. into a single corporation;

 

   

we may be unable to successfully manage the complex integration of systems, technology, aircraft fleets, networks and other assets of United and Continental in a manner that minimizes any adverse impact on the Company and the Company’s customers, vendors, suppliers, employees and other constituencies; and

 

   

we may experience disruption of, or inconsistencies in, each of United’s and Continental’s standards, controls, reports on operations, procedures, policies and services.

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.

Continued periods of historically high fuel prices or significant disruptions in the supply of aircraft fuel could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s operating results, financial position and liquidity.

Aircraft fuel has been the Company’s single largest and most volatile operating expense for the last several years. The availability and price of aircraft fuel significantly affect the Company’s operations, results of operations, financial position and liquidity. While the Company has been able to obtain adequate supplies of fuel under various supply contracts and also stores fuel close to major hub locations to ensure supply continuity in the short term, the Company cannot predict the continued future availability or price of aircraft fuel.

Continued volatility in fuel prices may negatively impact the Company’s liquidity in the future. Aircraft fuel prices can fluctuate based on a multitude of factors including market expectations of supply and demand balance, inventory levels, geopolitical events, economic growth expectations, fiscal/monetary policies and financial investment flows. The Company may not be able to increase its fares or other fees if fuel prices rise in the future and any such fare or fee 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 full impact of such rises in fuel prices and may also reduce the general demand for air travel.

To protect against increases in the prices of aircraft fuel, the Company routinely hedges a portion of its future fuel requirements. However, the Company’s hedging program may not be successful in controlling fuel costs, and price protection provided may be limited due to market conditions and other factors. To the extent that the Company uses hedge contracts that have the potential to create an obligation to pay upon settlement if prices decline significantly, including swaps or sold put options as

 

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part of a collar, such hedge contracts may limit the Company’s ability to benefit from lower fuel costs in the future. If fuel prices decline significantly from the levels existing at the time we enter into a hedge contract, we may be required to post collateral (margin) with our hedge counterparties beyond certain thresholds. Also, lower fuel prices may result in increased industry capacity and lower fares in general. There can be no assurance that the Company’s hedging arrangements will provide any particular level of protection against rises in fuel prices or that its counterparties will be able to perform under the Company’s hedging arrangements. Additionally, deterioration in the Company’s 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.

In addition, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (the “Dodd-Frank Act”) and regulations promulgated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) introduce new requirements for centralized clearing for over-the-counter derivatives. This may include the Company’s fuel hedge contracts. The UAL Board of Directors has approved the Company’s election of the CFTC’s end-user exception, which permits the Company as a non-financial end user of derivatives to hedge commercial risk and be exempt from the CFTC mandatory clearing requirements. However, depending on the final regulations adopted by the CFTC and other regulators, several of the Company’s hedge counterparties may be subject to requirements which may raise their costs. Those increased costs may in turn be passed to the Company, resulting in increased transaction costs to execute hedge contracts and lower credit thresholds to post collateral (margin).

See Note 13 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information on the Company’s hedging programs.

Economic and industry conditions constantly change and unfavorable global economic conditions may have a material adverse effect on the Company’s business and results of operations.

The Company’s 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 economic conditions, including the strength of the domestic and foreign economies, low unemployment levels, strong consumer confidence levels and the availability of consumer and business credit.

Air transportation is often a discretionary purchase that leisure travelers may limit or eliminate during difficult economic times. In addition, during periods of unfavorable economic conditions, business travelers usually reduce the volume of their travel, either due to cost-saving initiatives or as a result of decreased business activity requiring travel. During such periods, the Company’s business and results of operations may be adversely affected due to significant declines in industry passenger demand, particularly with respect to the Company’s business and premium cabin travelers, and a reduction in fare levels.

Stagnant or worsening global economic conditions either in the United States or in other geographic regions, and any future volatility in U.S. and global financial and credit markets may have a material adverse effect on the Company’s revenues, results of operations and liquidity. If such economic conditions were to disrupt capital markets in the future, the Company may be unable to obtain financing on acceptable terms (or at all) to refinance certain maturing debt and to satisfy future capital commitments.

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 40% of its operating revenues, as measured and reported to the DOT. The Company’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s liquidity, revenues, costs and operating results.

 

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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.

Although the Company’s 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 Company’s 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, disruptions in the global capital markets and catastrophic external events.

If the Company’s liquidity is constrained due to the various risk factors noted in this Item 1A or otherwise, the Company’s 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 Company’s indebtedness, 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 a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial position and results of operations. Furthermore, constrained liquidity may limit the Company’s ability to withstand competitive pressures and limit its flexibility in responding to changing business and economic conditions, including increased competition and demand for new services, placing the Company at a disadvantage when compared to its competitors that have less debt, and making the Company more vulnerable than its competitors who have less debt to a downturn in the business, industry or the economy in general.

The Company’s substantial level of indebtedness and non-investment grade credit rating, as well as market conditions and the availability of assets as collateral for loans or other indebtedness, may make it difficult for the Company to raise additional capital to meet its liquidity needs on acceptable terms, or at all.

See Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, for further information regarding the Company’s liquidity.

Certain of the Company’s financing agreements have covenants that impose operating and financial restrictions on the Company and its subsidiaries.

Certain of the Company’s credit facilities and indentures governing its secured notes impose certain operating and financial covenants on the Company, on United and its subsidiaries, or on Continental and its subsidiaries. Such covenants require the Company, United or Continental, as applicable, to maintain, depending on the particular agreement, minimum fixed charge coverage ratios, minimum liquidity and/or minimum collateral coverage ratios. A decline in the value of collateral could result in a situation where the Company, United or Continental, as applicable, may not be able to maintain the required collateral coverage ratio. In addition, the credit facilities and indentures contain other negative covenants customary for such financings.

The Company’s ability to comply with these covenants 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. If the Company fails to comply with these covenants and is unable to obtain a waiver or amendment, an event of default would result which would allow the lenders, among other things, to declare outstanding amounts due and payable. The Company cannot provide assurance that it would have sufficient liquidity to repay or refinance such amounts if they were to become due. In addition, an event of default or declaration of acceleration under any of the credit facilities or indentures could also result in an event of default under certain of the Company’s other financing agreements due to cross-default and cross-acceleration provisions.

 

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Extensive government regulation could increase the Company’s operating costs and restrict its ability to conduct its business.

Airlines are subject to extensive regulatory and legal oversight. Compliance with U.S. and international regulations imposes significant costs and may have adverse effects on the Company. 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 provides air transportation under certificates 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 Company’s business. The DOT is also responsible for promulgating consumer protection and other regulations that may impose significant compliance costs on the Company. The FAA regulates the safety of United’s and Continental’s operations. United and Continental are operators pursuant to a single air carrier operating certificate issued by the FAA. From time to time, the FAA also issues orders, airworthiness directives and other regulations relating to the maintenance and operation of aircraft that require material expenditures or operational restrictions by the Company. These FAA orders and directives could include the temporary grounding of an entire aircraft type if the FAA identifies design, manufacturing, maintenance or other issues requiring immediate corrective action. For example, on January 11, 2013, the FAA announced a review of the Boeing 787 aircraft’s critical systems and in-service issues and, on January 16, 2013, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive that requires U.S. Boeing 787 operators, including the Company, to temporarily cease operations of such aircraft. If the directive were to continue for an extended period of time, it could adversely affect the Company’s business and results of operations. 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 Company’s 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 system’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s airport access by limiting the number of departure and arrival slots at high density traffic airports, which could affect the Company’s 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 Company’s business. The FAA historically has taken actions with respect to airlines’ slot holdings that airlines have challenged; if the FAA were to take actions to adversely affect the Company’s slot holdings, the Company could incur substantial costs to preserve its slots. Further, the Company’s operating costs at airports at which it operates, including the Company’s major hubs, may increase

 

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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 Company’s approval and may have a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial condition.

The ability of carriers to operate flights on international routes between airports in the U.S. and other countries may be subject to change. Applicable arrangements between the United States and foreign governments may be amended from time to time, government policies with respect to airport operations may be revised, and the availability of appropriate slots or facilities may change. The Company currently operates a number of flights on international routes under government arrangements, regulations or policies that designate the number of carriers permitted to operate on such routes, the capacity of the carriers providing services on such routes, the airports at which carriers may operate international flights, or the number of carriers allowed access to particular airports. Any further limitations, additions or modifications to such arrangements, regulations or policies could have a material adverse effect on the Company’s financial position and results of operations. Additionally, if an open skies policy were to be adopted for any of the Company’s international routes, such an event could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s 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 Company’s business and assets on the open skies routes. The Company’s plans to enter into or expand U.S. antitrust immunized alliances and joint ventures on various international routes are subject to receipt of approvals from applicable U.S. federal authorities and obtaining other applicable foreign government clearances or satisfying the necessary applicable regulatory requirements. There can be no assurance that such approvals and clearances will be granted or will continue in effect upon further regulatory review or that changes in regulatory requirements or standards can be satisfied.

Many aspects of the Company’s 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 (which is subject to international dispute), the State of California’s 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, Business - Industry Regulation above, for further information on government regulation impacting the Company.

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. United’s website 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 including natural disasters, power failures, terrorist attacks, equipment or software failures, computer viruses or cyber security attacks. Substantial or repeated website, reservation systems or telecommunication systems failures or disruptions, including failures or disruptions related to the Company’s integration of technology systems, could reduce the attractiveness of the Company’s services versus those of its competitors, materially impair its ability to market its services and operate its flights, result in the unauthorized release of confidential or otherwise protected information, and result in increased costs, lost revenue and the loss or compromise of important data.

 

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The Company’s business relies extensively on third-party service providers. Failure of these parties to perform as expected, or interruptions in the Company’s relationships with these providers or their provision of services to the Company, could have an adverse effect on the Company’s 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 service providers, although it does enter into agreements with many of them that define expected service performance. Any of these third-party service 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/or travel agencies via third-party GDSs may be adversely affected by disruptions in the business relationships between the Company and GDS operators. Such disruptions, including a failure to agree upon acceptable contract terms when contracts expire or otherwise become subject to renegotiation, 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 Company’s relationships with its customers and travel agencies. The failure of any of the Company’s third-party service providers to adequately perform their service obligations, or other interruptions of services, may reduce the Company’s revenues and increase its expenses or prevent the Company from operating its flights and providing other services to its customers. In addition, the Company’s business and financial performance could be materially harmed if its customers believe that its services are unreliable or unsatisfactory.

UAL’s obligations for funding Continental’s defined benefit pension plans are affected by factors beyond UAL’s 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 UAL’s funding requirements under Continental’s 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 UAL’s 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 UAL’s funding requirements, such as its liquidity requirements, could have a material adverse effect on UAL’s financial condition.

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, could adversely affect the Company’s operations, and could result in increased costs that impair its financial performance.

United and Continental are both highly unionized companies. As of December 31, 2012, the Company and its subsidiaries had approximately 88,000 active employees, of whom approximately 80% were represented by various U.S. labor organizations.

The successful integration of United and Continental and achievement of the anticipated benefits of the combined company depend in part on integrating United and Continental employee groups and maintaining productive employee relations. 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 company’s collective bargaining agreements and union policy. A delay in or failure to integrate the United and Continental employee groups presents the potential for delays in achieving expected Merger synergies, increased operating costs and labor disputes that could adversely affect our operations.

During 2012, various labor agreements were reached between union representatives and the Company. On December 15, 2012, the pilots for both United and Continental ratified a joint collective bargaining agreement

 

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with the Company. In February 2013, the Company reached tentative agreements on new joint collective bargaining agreements with the IAM for the fleet service, passenger service and storekeeper workgroups at the United, Continental, Continental Micronesia and Mileage Plus subsidiaries. The tentative agreements with the IAM cover more than 28,000 employees and are subject to ratification by the IAM members. We are also currently in the process of negotiating joint collective bargaining agreements with all of our other major represented groups. Several other collective bargaining agreements were reached with unions at each of our subsidiaries during 2012, including with the United flight attendants in February 2012, the Continental Micronesia aircraft technicians in May 2012, the Continental pilot ground instructors in June 2012 and the Continental Micronesia flight attendants in August 2012.

The Company can provide no assurance that a successful or timely resolution of labor negotiations for all amendable collective bargaining 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. 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. 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 United’s and Continental’s 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 addition, achieving joint collective bargaining agreements, including the pilot agreement, with our represented employee groups is likely to increase our labor costs, which increase could be material.

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 achieve sustained profitability on domestic and international routes.

Airlines also compete for market share by increasing or decreasing their capacity, including route systems and the number of markets served. Several of the Company’s domestic and international 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 high and volatile fuel prices and stagnant global economic growth. Further, certain of the Company’s competitors may not reduce capacity or may increase capacity, impacting 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 Company’s 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 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. Most recently, AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines, Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2011 and is currently under going a restructuring under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. 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.

Both the U.S. and international airline industries have experienced consolidation through a number of mergers and acquisitions. On February 14, 2013, US Airways announced an agreement to merge with AMR Corporation

 

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and its intent to exit Star Alliance as a result of such merger. The Company is also facing stronger competition from expanded airline alliances and joint ventures. Carriers may improve their competitive positions through airline alliances, slot swaps, and/or joint ventures. Certain airline joint ventures further competition by allowing airlines 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 European Union 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 consolidations or reorganizations 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 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 Company’s ability to realize expected benefits from its own strategic relationships.

Increases in insurance costs or reductions in insurance coverage may materially and adversely impact the Company’s results of operations and financial condition.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Company’s insurance costs increased significantly and the availability of third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance decreased significantly. The Company has obtained third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance through a special program administered by the FAA. Should the government discontinue this coverage, obtaining comparable coverage from commercial underwriters could result in substantially higher premiums and more restrictive terms, if such coverage is available at all. If the Company is unable to obtain adequate third-party war risk (terrorism) insurance, its business could be materially and adversely affected.

If any of the Company’s aircraft were to be involved in an accident or if the Company’s 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 could experience adverse publicity, harm to its brand, reduced travel demand and potential tort liability as a result of an accident, catastrophe, or incident 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 Company’s results of operations or financial position.

An accident, catastrophe, or incident involving an aircraft that the Company operates, or an aircraft that is operated by a codeshare partner or one of the Company’s regional carriers, could have a material adverse effect on the Company if such accident, catastrophe, or incident created a public perception that the Company’s operations, or the operations of its codeshare partners or regional carriers, are not safe or reliable, or less safe or reliable than other airlines. Such public perception could in turn result in adverse publicity for the Company, cause harm to the Company’s brand and reduce travel demand on the Company’s flights, or the flights of its codeshare partners or regional carriers.

In addition, any such accident, catastrophe, or incident 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 or catastrophe, and the Company’s codeshare partners and regional carriers carry similar insurance and generally indemnify the Company for their operations, if the Company’s liability exceeds the applicable policy limits or the ability of another carrier to indemnify it, the Company could incur substantial losses from an accident, catastrophe or incident which may result in a material adverse effect on the Company’s results of operations or financial position.

 

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The Company’s 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, which are periods of lower travel demand. The Company’s 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, general economic conditions and other factors. As a result, the Company’s 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.

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 on September 11, 2001 involving commercial aircraft severely and adversely impacted each of United’s and Continental’s 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 industry’s 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 Company’s financial condition, liquidity and results of operations. The Company’s financial resources may not be sufficient to absorb the adverse effects of any future terrorist attacks or other international hostilities.

An outbreak of a disease or similar public health threat could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s business, financial position and results of operations.

An outbreak of a disease or similar public health threat that affects travel demand or travel behavior, or travel restrictions or reduction in the demand for air travel caused by an outbreak of a disease or similar public health threat in the future, could have a material adverse impact on the Company’s business, financial condition and results of operations.

The Company may never realize the full value of its intangible assets or its long-lived assets causing it to record impairments that may negatively affect its financial position and 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.

The Company may be required to recognize 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 an 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 Company’s financial position and results of operations.

 

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The Company’s 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, 2012, UAL reported consolidated federal net operating loss (“NOL”) carryforwards of approximately $10 billion.

The Company’s ability to use its NOL carryforwards may be limited if it experiences an “ownership change” as defined in Section 382 (“Section 382”) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. An ownership change generally occurs if certain stockholders increase their aggregate percentage ownership of a corporation’s 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.

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 Company’s 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 additional annual limitations that apply 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 corporation’s 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 Company’s 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 Company’s NOL carryforwards to expire unused. Similar rules and limitations may apply for state income tax purposes. The Company’s 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.

UAL’s 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 Company’s ability to use its NOL carryforwards for federal income tax purposes, UAL’s 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 UAL’s 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 UAL’s 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 UAL’s amended and restated certificate of incorporation available on the Company’s website.

 

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Certain provisions of UAL’s Governance Documents could discourage or delay changes of control or changes to the Board of Directors.

Certain provisions of UAL’s 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 UAL’s 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 or, they could prevent or discourage attempts to remove and replace incumbent directors.

The issuance of additional shares of UAL’s capital stock, including the issuance of common stock upon conversion of convertible notes and upon a noteholder’s exercise of its option to require UAL to repurchase convertible notes, could cause dilution to the interests of its existing stockholders.

UAL’s 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 par value, without any action on the part of UAL’s 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 UAL’s 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.

The Company 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, 2012, UAL had $1 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 UAL’s 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. 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 UAL’s common stock and UAL cannot predict the effect this dilution may have on the price of its common stock.

 

ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS.

None.

 

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ITEM 2. PROPERTIES

Fleet

Including aircraft operating by regional carriers on their behalf, United and Continental operated 629 and 624 aircraft, respectively, as of December 31, 2012. UAL’s combined fleet as of December 31, 2012 is presented in the table below:

 

Aircraft Type

   Total          Owned              Leased               Seats in Standard
Configuration
     Average Age
(In Years)
 

Mainline:

                 

747-400

     23           15           8              374           17.4     

777-200ER

     55           38           17              253-269           12.8     

777-200

     19           18           1              258-348           15.9     

787-8

     5           5           —              219           0.1     

767-400ER

     16           14           2              242-256           11.3     

767-300ER

     35           19           16              188-244           17.5     

767-200ER

     5           5           —              174           11.7     

757-300

     21           9           12              213-216           10.3     

757-200

     133           47           86              110-182           19.2     

737-900ER

     52           52           —              167-173           2.8     

737-900

     12           8           4              167           11.3     

737-800

     130           57           73              152-160           9.9     

A320-200

     97           51           46              138-144           14.5     

737-700

     36           12           24              118           14.0     

A319-100

     55           41           14              114-120           12.9     

737-500

     8           —           8              108           17.6     
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

          

 

 

 

Total mainline

                 702           391           311                 13.3     
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

          

 

Aircraft Type

   Total          Owned              Leased          Capacity
Purchase
     Seats in Standard
Configuration
      

Regional:

                 

Q400

     16           —           —           16           71-74        

E-170

     38           —           —           38           70        

CRJ700

     115           —           —           115           66        

CRJ200

     75                 75           50        

ERJ-145 (XR/LR/ER)

     270           16           223           31           50        

Q300

     5           —           —           5           50        

ERJ-135

     7           —           7           —           37        

Q200

     16           —           —           16           37        

EMB 120

     9           —           —           9           30        
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

       

Total regional

 

                 551           16           230           305           
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

       

Total

 

     1,253           407           541           305           
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

       

 

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United and Continental operated 354 and 348 mainline aircraft, respectively. The regional fleet is comprised of 275 aircraft at United and 276 at Continental. In addition to the aircraft operating in scheduled service presented in the tables above, United and Continental own or lease the following aircraft listed below as of December 31, 2012:

 

   

Two owned Boeing 747-400, including one operating in charter service and one in storage;

   

One owned Boeing 787-8, which has been inducted into scheduled service subsequent to December 31, 2012;

   

One leased Boeing 767-200, which is being subleased to another airline;

   

Three Airbus A330, which are subleased to another airline;

   

Two leased Boeing 737-300 in storage;

   

One leased Boeing 737-500, which has been returned to the lessor subsequent to December 31, 2012; and

   

23 leased ERJ-135 in storage.

Firm Order and Option Aircraft

As of December 31, 2012, UAL, United and Continental had firm commitments and options to purchase the following aircraft:

UAL Aircraft Commitments. UAL had firm commitments to purchase 100 new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft scheduled for delivery from 2018 through 2022. UAL also had options to purchase an additional 100 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. UAL has the right, and intends in the future, to assign its interest under the purchase agreement for the 737 MAX 9 aircraft with respect to one or more of the aircraft to either United or Continental.

United Aircraft Commitments. United had firm commitments to purchase 100 new aircraft (25 Boeing 787 aircraft, 50 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and 25 Airbus A350XWB aircraft) scheduled for delivery from 2013 through 2020. United also had options and purchase rights for additional aircraft. In 2013, United expects to take delivery of ten Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

Continental Aircraft Commitments. Continental had firm commitments to purchase 47 new aircraft (23 Boeing 737 aircraft and 24 Boeing 787 aircraft) scheduled for delivery from January 1, 2013 through 2016. Continental also had options to purchase 74 Boeing aircraft. In 2013, Continental expects to take delivery of 14 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and two Boeing 787-8 aircraft.

As of December 31, 2012, Continental had arranged for enhanced equipment trust certificate financing of 14 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and one Boeing 787-8 aircraft scheduled for delivery from January through July 2013. In addition, United had secured backstop financing commitments from its widebody aircraft and engine manufacturers for a limited number of its future aircraft deliveries, subject to certain customary conditions. However, UAL and United do not have backstop financing or any other financing currently in place for their firm narrowbody aircraft orders with Boeing, and Continental does not have backstop financing or any other financing currently in place for its other Boeing aircraft on order. Financing will be necessary to satisfy the Company’s capital commitments for its firm order aircraft and other related capital expenditures. The Company can provide no assurance that any financing not already in place for aircraft and spare engine deliveries will be available to the Company on acceptable terms when necessary or at all. See Notes 14 and 17 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information.

As of December 31, 2012, United had 222 call options to purchase regional jet aircraft being operated by certain regional carriers. At December 31, 2012, none of the call options was exercisable because none of the required conditions to make an option exercisable by United was met.

See Item 7, Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and Note 17 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for information related to future capital commitments to purchase these aircraft.

 

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Facilities

United’s and Continental’s principal facilities relate to leases of airport facilities, gates, hangar sites, terminal buildings and other 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 O’Hare, LAX and Denver with expiration dates ranging from 2014 to 2025. Continental has major facility leases at Newark Liberty, Houston Bush, Cleveland Hopkins and Guam with expiration dates ranging from 2013 through 2041. Substantially all of these facilities are leased on a net-rental basis, resulting in the Company’s 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 2028 and include approximately 1,100,000 square feet of office space for its corporate headquarters and operations center in downtown Chicago. Continental also leases approximately 511,000 square feet of office and related space for certain administrative offices and for a former operations center in downtown Houston.

 

ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS.

Brazil Air Cargo Investigation

In April 2008, Brazilian antitrust authorities initiated an administrative proceeding in order to verify the existence of a cartel among certain airlines for the determination and implementation of a fuel surcharge, including United and its cargo manager. 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 is charged with making a determination on the matter. On August 30, 2011, the Brazil Federal Public Prosecutor issued an opinion to CADE recommending the dismissal of the proceedings against United and its cargo manager, which is currently under consideration by CADE. United continues to vigorously defend itself before CADE.

United is currently cooperating with CADE’s investigation and continues to analyze whether any potential liability may result. 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 Company’s 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 Company’s 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 United’s motion for a permanent injunction and, instead, the preliminary injunction remained in effect until the conclusion of the ongoing bargaining process for an amended collective bargaining agreement that began on April 9, 2009. On December 15, 2012, the pilots ratified a new collective bargaining agreement and, on December 28, 2012, the district court vacated the preliminary injunction and the underlying case was dismissed with prejudice.

 

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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 United’s 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 United’s 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 United’s 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. Following the district court’s dismissal of the matter and the EEOC’s subsequent appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, on September 7, 2012, the Seventh Circuit overruled previous precedent and held that there may be an obligation to place a minimally qualified disabled worker in a position over a more qualified non-disabled worker. After the case was remanded to district court and the district court’s grant of United’s motion to stay this mandate during appeal, United filed a Petition for Certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States (the “Supreme Court”) on December 5, 2012. United anticipates that the EEOC will file its response brief with the Supreme Court on March 11, 2013, after which the Supreme Court will determine whether to accept the case.

Litigation Associated with September 11, 2001 Terrorism

Families of 94 victims of the September 11, 2001, 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 on September 11, 2001, 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 September 2011, United settled the last remaining wrongful death claim in connection with this matter. In 2010, 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 and has been affirmed by 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 been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In January 2013, Continental was dismissed from the litigation in its entirety. In the aggregate, claims related to the events of September 11, 2001 are estimated to be well in excess of $10 billion. The Company believes that it will have no financial exposure for claims arising out of the events of September 11, 2001 in light of the provisions of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act of 2001 limiting claimants’ recoveries to insurance proceeds, the resolution of the wrongful death and personal injury cases by settlement, the resolution of the majority of the property damage claims and the withdrawal of all related proofs of claim from UAL Corporation’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

 

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Antitrust Litigation Related to the Merger Transaction

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 Corporation 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 court’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and moved for a “hold separate” order pending the appeal, which was denied. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s denial of the preliminary injunction on May 23, 2011 and, on July 8, 2011, denied the plaintiffs’ motions for rehearing and for rehearing en banc. The U.S. Supreme Court thereafter denied certiorari. On October 24, 2011, the District Court allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint in order to, among other things, add a claim for damages. Continental and United filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice which the District Court granted on December 29, 2011. The plaintiffs are appealing that dismissal. The Company has determined that no reserve for potential liability is required and will continue to defend itself against the claim.

Environmental Proceedings

In 2001, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (“CRWQCB”) mandated a field study of the area surrounding Continental’s 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. Continental accrued a reserve in an amount expected by the Company to cover environmental remediation costs for this site.

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.

 

ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

Not applicable.

 

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PART II

 

ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES.

UAL’s common stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “UAL.” 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 NYSE:

 

     UAL  
     2012      2011  
     High      Low      High      Low  

1st quarter

     $     25.84             $     17.25             $     27.72             $     21.65       

2nd quarter

     25.50             20.55             26.84             19.32       

3rd quarter

     24.95             17.45             23.28             15.92       

4th quarter

     24.23             18.85             21.45             15.51       

Based on reports by the Company’s transfer agent for UAL common stock, as of February 7, 2013, there were approximately 12,900 record holders of UAL common stock and approximately 29,400 holders of UAL common stock comprised of UAL’s record holders and bankruptcy distribution holders under UAL Corporation’s Chapter 11 plan of reorganization.

UAL, United and Continental did not pay any dividends in 2012 or 2011. Under the provisions of the Amended and Restated Revolving Credit, Term Loan and Guaranty Agreement, dated as of February 2, 2007 (the “Amended Credit Facility”) and the terms of certain of the Company’s other debt agreements, UAL’s ability to pay dividends on or repurchase UAL’s 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 indenture governing Continental’s 6.75% Senior Secured Notes due 2015, the ability of Continental to pay dividends is restricted. 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.

 

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The following graph shows the cumulative total shareholder return for UAL’s common stock during the period from December 31, 2007 to December 31, 2012. The graph also shows the cumulative returns of the Standard and Poor’s (“S&P”) 500 Index and the NYSE Arca Airline Index (“AAI”) of 13 investor-owned airlines. The comparison assumes $100 was invested on December 31, 2007 in UAL common stock.

 

LOGO

Note: The stock price performance shown in the graph above should not be considered indicative of potential future stock price performance.

The following table presents repurchases of UAL common stock made in the fourth quarter of 2012:

 

Period   Total number of
shares
purchased (a)
     Average price
paid per share
     Total number of
shares purchased
as part of publicly
announced plans or
programs
     Maximum number of shares (or
approximate dollar value) of
shares that may yet be purchased
under the plans or programs
 

10/01/12-10/31/12

    —         $                 —           —           (b)   

11/01/12-11/30/12

    —           —           —           (b)   

12/01/12-12/31/12

    122,777           23.38           —           (b)   
 

 

 

          

Total

    122,777              

 

 

 

 

          

(a) Shares withheld from employees to satisfy certain tax obligations due upon the vesting of restricted stock.

(b) The United Continental Holdings, Inc. 2008 Incentive Compensation Plan provides for the withholding of shares to satisfy tax obligations due upon the vesting of restricted stock or restricted stock units. However, this plan does not specify a maximum number of shares that may be repurchased.

 

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ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA.

UAL’s consolidated financial statements and statistical data provided in the tables below include the results of Continental Successor for the periods from October 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012.

 

UAL Statement of Consolidated Operations Data

  

(In millions, except per share
amounts)
  Year Ended December 31,  

 

  2012     2011     2010     2009     2008  

Income Statement Data:

         

Operating revenue

   $         37,152        $         37,110        $         23,325        $         16,335        $         20,194    

Operating expense

    37,113         35,288         22,349         16,496         24,632    

Operating income (loss)

    39         1,822         976         (161)        (4,438)   
         

Net income (loss)

    (723)        840         253         (651)        (5,396)   
Net income (loss) excluding special items (a)     589         1,323         942         (1,128)        (1,773)   

Basic earnings (loss) per share

    (2.18)        2.54         1.22         (4.32)        (42.59)   

Diluted earnings (loss) per share

    (2.18)        2.26         1.08         (4.32)        (42.59)   
         

Balance Sheet Data at December 31:

         
Unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments    $ 6,543       $ 7,762        $ 8,680        $ 3,042        $ 2,039    

Total assets

    37,628        37,988         39,598         18,684         19,465    

Debt and capital lease obligations

    13,166        12,735         15,133         8,543         8,004    

 

(a) See “Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures” in this Item 6 for further details related to items that significantly impacted UAL’s results.

 

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UAL Selected Operating Data

Presented below is the Company’s operating data for the years ended December 31. The 2012, 2011 and 2010 operating data includes results of Continental Successor.

 

     Year Ended December 31,  
  

 

 

 
Mainline    2012      2011      2010      2009      2008  

Passengers (thousands) (a)

     93,595            96,360            65,365            56,082            63,149      

Revenue passenger miles (“RPMs”) (millions) (b)

     179,416            181,763            122,182            100,475            110,061      

Available seat miles (“ASMs”) (millions) (c)

     216,330            219,437            145,738            122,737            135,861      

Cargo ton miles (millions)

     2,460            2,646            2,176            1,603            1,921      
              

Passenger load factor (d)

              

Mainline

     82.9%         82.8%         83.8%         81.9%         81.0%   

Domestic

     84.9%         85.1%         84.8%         83.7%         82.6%   

International

     80.9%         80.5%         82.7%         79.4%         79.0%   
              

Passenger revenue per available seat mile (“PRASM”) (cents)

     11.93            11.84            10.99            9.22            10.91      

Total revenue per available seat mile (cents)

     13.92            13.77            12.91            10.81            12.58      

Average yield per revenue passenger mile (“Yield”) (cents) (e)

     14.38            14.29            13.11            11.26            13.47      

Average fare per revenue passenger (f)

   $ 275.70          $ 269.56          $ 245.06          $ 201.72          $ 234.71      
              

Cost per available seat mile (“CASM”) (cents)

     14.12            13.15            12.51            11.05            15.74      
              

Average price per gallon of fuel, including fuel taxes

   $ 3.27          $ 3.01          $ 2.27          $ 1.75          $ 3.54      

Fuel gallons consumed (millions)

     3,275            3,303            2,280            1,942            2,182      
              

Aircraft in fleet at end of period (g)

     702            701            710            360            409      

Average stage length (miles) (h)

     1,895            1,844            1,789            1,701            1,677      

Average daily utilization of each aircraft (hours) (i)

     10:38            10:42            10:47            10:47            10:42      
              

Regional

              

Passengers (thousands) (a)

     46,846            45,439            32,764            25,344            23,278      

RPMs (millions) (b)

     26,069            25,768            18,675            13,770            12,155      

ASMs (millions) (c)

     32,530            33,091            23,827            17,979            16,164      

Passenger load factor (d)

     80.1%         77.9%         78.4%         76.6%         75.2%   

PRASM (cents)

     20.84            19.75            17.70            16.04            18.44      

Yield (cents) (e)

     26.00            25.36            22.58            20.95            24.52      

Aircraft in fleet at end of period (g)

     551            555            552            292            280      
              

Consolidated

              

Passengers (thousands) (a)

     140,441            141,799            98,129            81,426            86,427      

RPMs (millions) (b)

     205,485            207,531            140,857            114,245            122,216      

ASMs (millions) (c)

     248,860            252,528            169,565            140,716            152,025      

Passenger load factor (d)

     82.6%         82.2%         83.1%         81.2%         80.4%   
              

PRASM (cents)

     13.09            12.87            11.93            10.09            11.71      

Yield (cents) (e)

     15.86            15.67            14.37            12.43            14.57      
              

CASM (cents)

     14.91            13.97            13.18            11.72            16.20      
              

Average price per gallon of fuel, including fuel taxes

   $ 3.27          $ 3.06          $ 2.39          $ 1.80          $ 3.52      

Fuel gallons consumed (millions)

     4,016            4,038            2,798            2,338            2,553      

 

(a) The number of revenue passengers measured by each flight segment flown.
(b) The number of scheduled miles flown by revenue passengers.

 

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(c) The number of seats available for passengers multiplied by the number of scheduled miles those seats are flown.
(d) RPM divided by ASM.
(e) The average passenger revenue received for each revenue passenger mile flown.
(f) Passenger revenue divided by number of passengers.
(g) Excludes aircraft that were removed from service. Regional aircraft include aircraft operated by all carriers under capacity purchase agreements, but exclude any aircraft that were subleased to other operators but not operated on our behalf.
(h) Average stage length equals the average distance a flight travels weighted for size of aircraft.
(i) The average number of hours per day that an aircraft flown in revenue service is operated (from gate departure to gate arrival).

Reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP Financial Measures

UAL evaluates its financial performance utilizing various accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”) and non-GAAP financial measures including net income/loss, net earnings/loss per share and cost per available sent mile (“CASM”), among others. CASM is a common metric used in the airline industry to measure an airline’s cost structure and efficiency. UAL believes that excluding fuel costs from certain measures is useful to investors because it provides an additional measure of management’s performance excluding the effects of a significant cost item over which management has limited influence. Fuel hedge mark-to-market (“MTM”) gains (losses) are excluded as UAL did not apply cash flow hedge accounting for certain of the periods presented, and these adjustments may provide a better comparison to UAL’s peers, most of which either apply cash flow hedge accounting or exclude cash MTM gains or losses in certain disclosures of fuel expense. UAL believes that adjusting for special items is useful to investors because the special items are non-recurring items not indicative of UAL’s ongoing performance. UAL also believes that excluding third-party business expenses, such as maintenance, ground handling and catering services for third parties, fuel sales and non-air mileage redemptions, provides more meaningful disclosure because these expenses are not directly related to UAL’s core business. Pursuant to SEC Regulation G, UAL has included the following reconciliation of reported non-GAAP financial measures to comparable financial measures reported on a GAAP basis (in millions, except CASM amounts). For further information related to special items, see Note 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report.

 

     Year ended December 31,  
      2012      2011      2010      2009      2008  

Net income (loss) excluding special items:

              

Net income (loss)

    $ (723)        $ 840         $ 253         $ (651)        $ (5,396)   

Total special items - income (expense)

(see detail below)

     (1,312)         (483)          (689)         477          (3,623)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Net income (loss) excluding special items

    $ 589         $ 1,323         $ 942         $ (1,128)         $ (1,773)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
              

Special items - income (expense) (millions)

              

Special revenue item

    $ —         $ 107         $ —         $ —         $ —    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
              

Merger and integration-related costs

     (739)         (517)         (564)         —          —    

Labor agreement costs

     (475)         —          —          —          —    

Voluntary severance and benefits

     (125)         —          —          —          —    

Goodwill impairment (charge) credit

     —          —          64          —          (2,277)   

Other intangible impairments

     (30)         (4)         (29)         (150)         (64)   

Other asset impairments

     —          —          (136)         (93)         (250)   

Municipal bond litigation

     —          —          —          (27)         —    

Termination of maintenance service contract

     —          (58)         —          —          —    

Other

     46         (13)         (4)         (104)         (25)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Special operating expense

     (1,323)         (592)         (669)         (374)         (2,616)   

Other operating expense items

     —          —          —          (35)         (191)   

Operating non-cash MTM gain (loss)

     —          —          (32)         586          (568)   

Non-operating non-cash MTM gain (loss) (a)

     —          —          —          279          (279)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Other expense items

     —          —          (32)         830          (1,038)   

Income tax benefit

     11                  12          21          31    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total special items (b)

    $ (1,312)        $ (483)        $ (689)        $ 477         $ (3,623)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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     Year ended December 31,  
      2012      2011      2010  
Mainline CASM excluding special charges and aircraft fuel and related taxes:         

Operating expense

    $ 30,539         $ 28,850         $ 18,228    

Special charges

     (1,323)         (592)         (669)   

Third-party business expenses

     (298)         (235)         (218)   

Aircraft fuel and related taxes

     (10,713)         (9,936)         (5,387)   

Profit sharing

     (119)         (265)         (166)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Operating expense excluding above items

    $ 18,086         $ 17,822         $ 11,788    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
        

ASMs - mainline

     216,330          219,437          145,738    
        

CASM (cents)

     14.12          13.15          12.51    

CASM, excluding special items

     13.51          12.88          12.03    
CASM, excluding special items and third-party business expenses      13.37          12.77          11.88    
CASM, excluding special items, third-party business expenses and fuel      8.42          8.24          8.20    
CASM, excluding special items, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing      8.36          8.12          8.09    
        
Consolidated CASM excluding special charges and aircraft fuel and related taxes:         

Operating expense

    $ 37,113         $ 35,288         $ 22,349    

Special charges

     (1,323)         (592)         (669)   

Third-party business expenses

     (298)         (235)         (218)   

Aircraft fuel and related taxes

     (13,138)         (12,375)         (6,687)   

Profit Sharing

     (119)         (265)         (166)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Operating expense excluding above items

    $ 22,235         $ 21,821         $ 14,609    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 
        

ASMs - consolidated

     248,860          252,528          169,565    
        

CASM (cents)

     14.91          13.97          13.18    

CASM, excluding special items

     14.38          13.74          12.77    
CASM, excluding special items and third-party business expenses      14.26          13.65          12.64    
CASM, excluding special items, third-party business expenses and fuel      8.98          8.75          8.71    
CASM, excluding special items, third-party business expenses, fuel and profit sharing      8.93          8.64          8.62    

 

        

(a)In 2009 and 2008 the Company included Non-operating non-cash MTM gains (losses) in special items for certain presentations of net income excluding special items. The Company no longer includes Non-operating non-cash MTM gains (losses) in special items.

(b)See Note 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information on special items.

   

  

 

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ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS.

Overview

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 consolidated United and Continental beginning October 1, 2010 for financial statement purposes, disclosures that relate to United or Continental activities also apply to UAL, unless otherwise noted. When appropriate, UAL, United and Continental are named specifically for their related activities and disclosures.

2012 Financial Highlights

 

   

UAL recorded net loss of $723 million for 2012, as compared to net income of $840 million for 2011. Excluding special items, UAL recorded net income of $589 million for 2012, compared to net income of $1.3 billion for 2011. See Item 6 of this report for a reconciliation of GAAP to non-GAAP net income.

 

   

UAL’s unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments at December 31, 2012 was $6.5 billion as compared to $7.8 billion at December 31, 2011.

 

   

UAL 2012 consolidated passenger revenue in 2012 increased approximately $72 million, or 0.2%, as compared to 2011. Consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (“PRASM”) increased 1.7% in 2012 compared to 2011.

 

   

Full-year 2012 cost per available seat mile (“CASM”) increased 6.7% year-over-year.

2012 Operational Highlights

 

   

For the years ended December 31, 2012 and 2011, the Company recorded a U.S. Department of Transportation on-time arrival rate of 77.4% and 78.8%, respectively, and a system completion factor of 98.6% and 98.7%, respectively.

 

   

Consolidated traffic (“RPMs”) for 2012 decreased 1.0% as compared to 2011, while consolidated capacity (“ASMs”) decreased 1.5% from the prior year, resulting in a consolidated load factor of 82.6% in 2012 versus a consolidated load factor of 82.2% in 2011.

 

   

The Company took delivery of six Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners in 2012, and launched its first commercial 787 flight in early November. United also took delivery of 19 Boeing 737-900ERs, and removed from service 19 Boeing 737-500s, one Boeing 757-200 and three Boeing 767-200s.

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 the forward-looking statements in this report. See Item 1A, Risk Factors, and the factors described under “Forward-Looking Information” for further discussion of these and other factors that could affect us.

Merger Integration. During 2012, the Company made significant progress in integrating its products, services, policies and a number of information technology systems. Following the conversion of its passenger service system in March 2012, the Company now has a single passenger service system, a single loyalty program, MileagePlus, and a single website, united.com. Continental’s OnePass loyalty program formally ended in the first quarter of 2012, at which point United automatically enrolled OnePass members in the MileagePlus program and

 

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deposited into those MileagePlus accounts award miles equal to OnePass members’ award miles balance. As a result of the conversion to a single passenger service system, the Company now operates using a single reservations system, carrier code, flight schedule, website and departure control system.

The Company continued to redeploy aircraft across its global network, better matching aircraft and demand on a route by route basis.

The United and Continental pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (“ALPA”) ratified a new joint collective bargaining agreement with the Company.

Some key initiatives for the Company in 2013 include maintaining reliable operational performance, investing in customer service training and tools for its frontline co-workers, completing the installation of flat-bed seats in the premium cabins of its international widebody aircraft, installing global satellite based WiFi on approximately 300 of its mainline aircraft, and reaching competitive joint collective bargaining agreements with its union-represented employee groups.

UAL expects the Merger to deliver $1.0 billion to $1.2 billion in net annual synergies on a run-rate basis when the integration is complete and synergy benefits are fully realized.

The Company has incurred substantial expenses in connection with the Merger. The Company incurred approximately $739 million of integration-related cash costs in 2012 and expects this amount to decrease significantly in 2013 to approximately $250 million. 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. See Notes 1 and 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report and Item 1A, Risk Factors, for additional information on the Merger.

The Company plans to merge United Air Lines, Inc. and Continental Airlines, Inc. into one legal entity in 2013. Once this legal merger occurs, the financial statements of United and Continental will be combined at their historical cost for all periods presented beginning on October 1, 2010, the date on which Continental became a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAL, and there will no longer be a requirement to separately report the historical financial statements of Continental.

Economic Conditions. The economic outlook for the aviation industry in 2013 is characterized by stagnant to modest U.S. and global economic growth. We cannot predict whether the demand for air travel will improve or the rate of such improvement. Continuing economic uncertainty, including continued European sovereign debt uncertainty and political and socioeconomic tensions in regions such as the Middle East, may result in diminished demand for air travel and may impair our ability to achieve profitability in 2013.

Capacity. Over the past year, UAL leveraged the flexibility of its combined fleet to better match market demand and added new routes from its hubs to international destinations such as Istanbul, Turkey; Manchester, England; Dublin, Ireland; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Monterrey, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador; Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada; and Doha, Qatar via Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In addition, for 2013, UAL expects to add new routes from its hubs to Taipei, Taiwan; Shannon, Ireland; Paris, France; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada; Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; and Denver’s first service to Asia with non-stop service to Tokyo, subject to government approval. We expect consolidated capacity for 2013 to be lower than consolidated capacity in 2012. Should fuel prices increase significantly or should U.S. or global economic growth outlooks decline substantially, we would likely adjust our capacity plans to reflect the different operating environment.

Fuel Costs. Fuel prices continued to be volatile in 2012. UAL’s average aircraft fuel price per gallon including related taxes was $3.27 in 2012 as compared to $3.06 in 2011. 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 achieve profitability. Based on projected fuel consumption in 2013, a one dollar change in the price of a barrel of crude oil would change UAL’s annual fuel expense by approximately $94 million. To protect against increases in the prices of aircraft fuel, the Company routinely hedges a portion of its future fuel requirements.

 

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Labor Costs. As of December 31, 2012, the Company had approximately 80% of employees represented by unions. We are in the process of negotiating amended collective bargaining agreements with our major 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 would have an adverse financial impact on the Company.

In 2013, the Company expects CASM, excluding fuel, profit sharing and third-party business expense to increase 4.5% to 5.5% year-over-year, of which approximately 2.5 percentage points are due to collective bargaining agreements with various employee groups.

Results of Operations

In this section, we compare UAL’s results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2012 with UAL’s results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2011. This presentation differs from the comparison of 2011 and 2010 results, which compares UAL’s financial performance year-over-year excluding the Merger impact in 2010, represented by Continental Successor results in the fourth quarter of 2010. Non-GAAP financial measures are presented because they provide management and investors with the ability to measure and monitor UAL’s performance on a consistent basis.

2012 compared to 2011

Operating Revenue

The table below illustrates the year-over-year percentage change in UAL’s operating revenues for the years ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

UAL

   2012      2011      Increase
(Decrease)
     % Change  

Passenger—Mainline

    $ 25,804         $ 25,975         $ (171)         (0.7)   

Passenger—Regional

     6,779          6,536          243          3.7    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total passenger revenue

     32,583          32,511          72          0.2    

Cargo

     1,018          1,167          (149)         (12.8)   

Special revenue item

     —          107          (107)         NM    

Other operating revenue

     3,551          3,325          226          6.8    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    
    $ 37,152         $ 37,110         $ 42          0.1    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

The table below presents UAL’s passenger revenues and operating data based on geographic region (regional flights consist primarily of domestic routes):

 

    Increase (decrease) in 2012 from 2011 (a):  
        Domestic            Pacific            Atlantic            Latin              Total
  Mainline    
       Regional          Consolidated    

Passenger revenue (in millions)

   $ (338)          $ 391         $ (197)          $ (27)          $ (171)          $ 243            $ 72       

Passenger revenue

    (2.6)%         8.6%         (3.4)%         (1.0)%         (0.7)%         3.7 %         0.2 %   

Average fare per passenger

    1.5 %         2.3%         (0.1)%         (1.5)%         2.3%         0.6 %         1.2 %   

Yield

    (0.1)%         5.1%         0.3 %         (4.2)%         0.6 %         2.5 %         1.2 %   

PRASM

    (0.3)%         5.8%         0.2 %         (2.2)%         0.8 %         5.5 %         1.7 %   

Average stage length

    2.3 %         1.6%         0.3 %         3.1 %         2.8 %         (2.3)%         1.1 %   

Passengers

    (4.0)%         6.1%         (3.4)%         0.5 %         (2.9)%         3.1 %         (1.0)%   

RPMs (traffic)

    (2.5)%         3.2%         (3.7)%         3.2 %         (1.3)%         1.2 %         (1.0)%   

ASMs (capacity)

    (2.4)%         2.7%         (3.6)%         1.3 %         (1.4)%         (1.7)%         (1.5)%   

Passenger load factor (points)

    (0.2)            0.4           (0.2)            1.6             0.1             2.2             0.4       

 

  (a) See Item 6 for the definition of these statistics.

 

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Consolidated passenger revenue in 2012 increased approximately $72 million, or 0.2%, as compared to 2011. This increase was due to an increase of 1.2% in both average fare per passenger and yield, over the same period as a result of improved pricing primarily from industry capacity discipline, offset by a 1% decline in passengers. The reduced traffic from both business and leisure passengers in 2012 was offset by higher fares, which drove improvements in both average fare per passenger and yield.

Cargo revenue decreased by $149 million, or 12.8%, in 2012 as compared to 2011 due to excess industry capacity and a weaker demand environment. Both cargo volume and yield declined in 2012 compared to 2011. Freight revenue in 2012 decreased 13.4% compared to 2011 due to lower volume, fuel surcharges and processing fees. Mail revenue decreased 8.1% in 2012 as compared to 2011 primarily due to lower volume.

Revenue in 2011 was also impacted by certain accounting changes, as described in Note 2 to the financial statements in Item 8 of this report. In conjunction with these accounting changes, the Company recorded a special adjustment in 2011 to decrease frequent flyer deferred revenue and increase revenue by $107 million in connection with a modification to The Consolidated Amended and Restated Co-Branded Card Marketing Services Agreement dated June 9, 2011 (the “Co-Brand Agreement”) with Chase Bank USA, N.A. (“Chase”).

Other operating revenue was up $226 million, or 6.8%, in 2012 as compared to 2011, which was primarily due to a change in the deferral rate related to the sales of credit card miles in conjunction with the modification of the Co-Brand Agreement in accordance with Accounting Standards Update 2009-13, Multiple-Deliverable Revenue Arrangements - a consensus of the FASB Emerging Issues Task Force (“ASU 2009-13”), which was adopted in 2011. Other operating revenue also increased due to additional sales of aircraft fuel to a third party.

Operating Expense

The table below includes data related to UAL’s operating expense for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes).

 

UAL

   2012      2011      Increase
(Decrease)
     % Change  

Aircraft fuel

    $ 13,138         $ 12,375         $ 763          6.2    

Salaries and related costs

     7,945          7,652          293          3.8    

Regional capacity purchase

     2,470          2,403          67          2.8    

Landing fees and other rent

     1,929          1,928                  0.1    

Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs

     1,760          1,744          16          0.9    

Depreciation and amortization

     1,522          1,547          (25)         (1.6)   

Distribution expenses

     1,352          1,435          (83)         (5.8)   

Aircraft rent

     993          1,009          (16)         (1.6)   

Special charges

     1,323          592          731          NM    

Other operating expenses

     4,681          4,603          78          1.7    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    
    $ 37,113         $ 35,288         $ 1,825          5.2    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

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The significant increase in aircraft fuel expense was primarily attributable to increased fuel prices and gains (losses) from fuel hedging activity in both years, as shown in the table below which reflects the significant changes in aircraft fuel cost per gallon for 2012 as compared to 2011.

 

    (In millions)     %
Change
    Average price per gallon  
     2012     2011       2012     2011     %
Change
 

Total aircraft fuel cost excluding hedge impacts

   $   12,997        $   12,878         0.9        $ 3.24        $ 3.19         1.6    
Hedge gains (losses) reported in fuel expense (a)     (141)        503         NM         (0.03)        0.13         NM    
 

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   

Fuel expense as reported

    13,138         12,375         6.2         3.27         3.06         6.9    

Settled hedge gains (losses) not recorded in fuel

expense (b)

    (1)        (60)        NM         —         (0.02)        NM    
 

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   
Fuel expense including all gains (losses) from settled hedges     13,139         12,435         5.7         3.27         3.08         6.2    
Hedge non-cash mark-to-market gains (losses) (c)     38                NM         0.01         —         NM    
 

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   

Fuel expense including all hedge impacts

   $ 13,101        $ 12,434         5.4        $ 3.26        $ 3.08         5.8    
 

 

 

   

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total fuel consumption (gallons)

    4,016         4,038         (0.5)         

 

(a) Includes gains (losses) from settled hedges that were designated for hedge accounting.

(b) Includes ineffectiveness gains (losses) and gains (losses) on derivatives not designated for hedge accounting. These amounts are recorded in Nonoperating income (expense): Miscellaneous, net.

(c) Includes ineffectiveness gains (losses) and non-cash mark-to-market gains (losses) on all open fuel hedge positions. These amounts are recorded in Nonoperating income (expense): Miscellaneous, net.

Salaries and related costs increased $293 million, or 3.8%, in 2012 as compared to 2011. The increase was due to several factors including a 3.5% increase in the number of average full-time employees year-over-year, higher pay rates primarily driven by new collective bargaining agreements, pension costs, and overtime for airport and call center employees related to our conversion to a single passenger service system. The increase was offset by a decrease in profit sharing and lower workers’ compensation and long-term disability.

Distribution expenses decreased $83 million, or 5.8%, in 2012 as compared to 2011 due to reduced fees with our online ticket agents, lower credit card discount fees driven by legislation reducing costs on debit card sales, and lower volume of global distribution fees paid.

Other operating expenses increased $78 million, or 1.7%, in 2012 as compared to 2011 due to additional trip interruption costs, costs associated with higher fuel sales, hotel and per diem expenses, personnel-related expenses and higher advertising expenses.

 

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The table below presents integration-related costs and special items incurred by UAL during the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2012      2011  

Integration-related costs

    $ 739         $ 517    

Labor agreement costs

     475          —    

Voluntary severance and benefits

     125          —    

Intangible asset impairments

     30            

Termination of maintenance service contract

     —          58    

Other

     (46)         13    
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total special items

     1,323          592    

Tax benefit on intangible asset impairments

     (11)         (2)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total special items, net of tax

    $ 1,312         $ 590    
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Integration-related costs include compensation costs related to systems integration and training, costs to repaint aircraft in the new livery and other branding activities, costs to write-off or accelerate depreciation on systems and facilities that are no longer used or planned to be used for significantly shorter periods and relocation costs for employees and severance primarily associated with administrative headcount reductions.

On December 31, 2012, UAL and United entered into an agreement with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (the “PBGC”) that reduced the aggregate amount of 8% Contingent Senior Notes to be issued by UAL, and eliminated the contingent nature of such obligation by replacing the $188 million principal amount of 8% Contingent Senior Notes incurred as of December 31, 2012 and the obligation to issue any additional 8% Contingent Senior Notes with $400 million principal amount of new 8% Notes due 2024 (the “New 8% Notes”). In addition, UAL and United agreed to replace the $652 million principal amount outstanding of UAL’s 6% Senior Notes due 2031 with $326 million principal amount of new 6% Notes due 2026 and $326 million principal amount of 6% Notes due 2028 (collectively, the “New 6% Notes” and together with the New 8% Notes, the “New PBGC Notes”). The Company did not receive any cash proceeds in connection with the issuance of the New PBGC Notes. The Company is accounting for this agreement as a debt extinguishment, resulting in a charge of $309 million that represents the fair value of $212 million of New 8% Notes that it agreed to issue and the change in the fair value of the New 6% Notes and the $188 million of New 8% Notes versus their previous carrying values. The Company classified the expense as a component of special charges because the note restructuring would not have occurred if it were not for the Merger.

The Company also recorded impairment charges related to European take-off and landing slots primarily due to the weakening of the U.S. dollar against certain foreign currencies and reductions in scheduled flights. In addition, the Company recorded additional costs associated with the ratification of the joint collective bargaining agreement by the United and Continental pilots represented by ALPA. The Company also recorded charges associated with various voluntary retirement and leave of absence programs for its various employee groups. See Note 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information related to special items.

 

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Nonoperating Income (Expense)

The following table illustrates the year-over-year dollar and percentage changes in UAL’s nonoperating income (expense) (in millions except percentage changes):

 

     2012      2011      Increase
(Decrease)
     % Change  

Interest expense

    $ (835)        $ (949)        $ (114)         (12.0)   

Interest capitalized

     37          32                  15.6    

Interest income

     23          20                  15.0    

Miscellaneous, net

     12          (80)         92          NM    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total

    $ (763)        $ (977)        $ (14)         (1.4)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

The decrease in interest expense of $114 million, or 12%, in 2012 as compared to 2011 was primarily due to lower average debt principal outstanding for a majority of the year.

In 2012, miscellaneous, net included a fuel hedge ineffectiveness loss of $1 million primarily resulting from a decrease in fuel hedge ineffectiveness as compared to a loss of $59 million in the year-ago period. Miscellaneous, net also included mark-to-market gains of $38 million from derivatives not qualifying for hedge accounting as compared to zero in 2011.

2011 compared to 2010

To provide a more meaningful comparison of UAL’s 2011 financial performance to 2010, 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 Continental’s actual results for the fourth quarter of 2010 and full year 2011. The discussion of UAL’s results excludes the impact of Continental’s results. Intercompany transactions in 2010 were immaterial.

Operating Revenue

The table below illustrates the year-over-year percentage change in UAL’s operating revenues for the years ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

            2011                     2010                 $ Change         $ Increase
due to

Merger
    $ Change
Excluding
Merger
Impact
    % Change
Excluding
Merger
Impact
 

Passenger—Mainline

   $ 25,975        $ 16,019        $ 9,956        $ 9,211        $ 745         5.6   

Passenger—Regional

    6,536         4,217         2,319         2,041         278         7.6   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total passenger revenue

    32,511         20,236         12,275         11,252         1,023         6.0   

Cargo

    1,167         832         335         329                0.8   

Special revenue item

    107         —         107         19         88         NM   

Other operating revenue

    3,325         2,257         1,068         1,012         56         2.8   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   
   $ 37,110        $ 23,325        $ 13,785        $ 12,612        $ 1,173         5.9   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

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The table below presents selected UAL passenger revenue and selected operating data based on geographic region (regional flights consist primarily of domestic routes):

 

    Increase (decrease) in 2011 from 2010 (a):  
    Domestic     Pacific     Atlantic     Latin     Total
Mainline
    Regional     Consolidated        

Passenger revenue (in millions)

   $     231           $ 183           $ 143           $ 188           $ 745           $ 278           $ 1,023       

Passenger revenue

    3.2 %        6.0 %        5.2 %        39.0 %        5.6 %        7.6 %        6.0 %   

Average fare per passenger

    13.1 %        8.9 %        5.8 %        1.6 %        13.0 %        13.7 %        12.9 %   

Yield

    9.8 %        6.2 %        6.3 %        8.7 %        8.4 %        7.2 %        8.4 %   

PRASM

    11.7 %        3.0 %        3.5 %        6.3 %        7.9 %        7.7 %        8.0 %   

Average stage length

    3.1 %        1.6 %        (2.4)%        (5.1)%        5.2 %        5.7 %        4.9 %   

Passengers

    (8.7)%        (2.7)%        (0.6)%        36.8 %        (6.5)%        (5.4)%        (6.1)%   

RPMs (traffic)

    (6.0)%        (0.2)%        (1.1)%        27.9 %        (2.7)%        0.3 %        (2.2)%   

ASMs (capacity)

    (7.6)%        2.8 %        1.7 %        30.8 %        (2.2)%        (0.1)%        (1.9)%   

Passenger load factor (points)

    1.5 pts.         (2.5) pts.         (2.2) pts.         (1.8) pts.         (0.4) pts.         0.4 pts.         (0.3) pts.    

 

  (a) See Item 6 for the definition of these statistics.

Excluding the impact of the Merger, passenger revenue in 2011 increased approximately $1 billion, or 6%, as compared to 2010. These increases were due to increases of 12.9% and 8.4% in average fare per passenger and yield, respectively, over the same period primarily due to year-over-year capacity discipline, which in turn resulted in improved pricing and higher average fares. Traffic and capacity decreased approximately 2.2% and 1.9%, respectively, while passenger revenue per available seat mile increased approximately 8% in 2011 as compared to 2010. Average fares were also higher in 2011 as compared to 2010 due to fare increases implemented in response to higher fuel prices.

Excluding the impact of the Merger, revenue also increased in 2011 as a result of certain accounting changes as described in Note 2 to the financial statements in Item 8 of this report. In conjunction with these changes, the Company recorded a special adjustment to decrease frequent flyer deferred revenue and increase revenue by $88 million in connection with a modification to the Co-Brand Agreement with Chase.

Operating Expense

The table below includes data related to UAL’s operating expense for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

     2011      2010      $ Change      $ Increase
due to
Merger
     $ Change
Excluding
Merger
Impact
     % Change
Excluding
Merger
Impact
 

Aircraft fuel

    $ 12,375         $ 6,687         $ 5,688         $ 4,308         $ 1,380           24.2    

Salaries and related costs

     7,652          5,002          2,650          2,619          31          0.7    

Regional capacity purchase

     2,403          1,812          591          628          (37)         (2.3)   

Landing fees and other rent

     1,928          1,307          621          669          (48)         (4.5)   
Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs      1,744          1,115          629          460          169          17.2    

Depreciation and amortization

     1,547          1,079          468          449          19          2.1    

Distribution expenses

     1,435          912          523          532          (9)         (1.2)   

Aircraft rent

     1,009          500          509          512          (3)         (0.9)   

Special charges

     592          669          (77)         (42)         (35)         NM    

Other operating expenses

     4,603          3,266          1,337          1,505          (168)         (6.2)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    
    $ 35,288         $ 22,349         $ 12,939         $ 11,640         $ 1,299          6.9    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

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Excluding the impact of the Merger, operating expenses increased approximately $1.3 billion, or 6.9%, in 2011 as compared to 2010.

The significant increase in aircraft fuel expense was primarily attributable to a 27% increase in fuel prices offset by a 2.2% decrease in fuel consumption.

Salaries and related costs increased $31 million, or 0.7%, due to higher pay rates and a one-time signing bonus for certain labor groups.

Landing fees and other rent decreased $48 million, or 4.5%, primarily due to higher than anticipated credits (refunds) received in 2011 as a result of airports’ audits of prior period payment.

Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs increased $169 million, or 17.2%, primarily due to increased power by the hour rates and a higher number of service events.

Other operating expenses decreased $168 million, or 6.2%, primarily due to aircraft redeployment as a result of the Merger.

The table below presents integration and Merger-related costs and special items incurred by UAL during the years ended December 31 (in millions):

 

     2011      2010  

Integration and Merger-related costs

    $ 517         $ 564    

Termination of maintenance service contract

     58          —    

Intangible asset impairments

             29    

Aircraft impairment

     —          136    

Goodwill impairment credit

     —          (64)   

Other

     13            
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total special items

     592          669    

Tax benefit on intangible asset impairments

     (2)         (12)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total special items, net of tax

    $ 590         $ 657    
  

 

 

    

 

 

 

Integration and Merger-related costs include compensation costs related to systems integration and training, costs to repaint aircraft in the new livery and other branding activities, costs to write-off or accelerate depreciation on systems and facilities that are no longer used or planned to be used for significantly shorter periods, severance primarily associated with administrative headcount reductions and a charge related to the Company’s obligation to issue 8% Notes. See Notes 1 and 21 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information related to special items.

Nonoperating Income (Expense)

The following table illustrates the year-over-year dollar and percentage changes in UAL’s nonoperating income (expense) (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

    2011     2010     $ Change     $ Increase
(decrease)
due to

Merger
    $ Change
Excluding
Merger
Impact
    %  Change
Excluding
Merger

Impact
 

Interest expense

   $ (949)       $ (798)       $ 151        $ 256       $ (105)        (14.7)   

Interest capitalized

    32         15         17         13                36.4    

Interest income

    20         15                       (2)        (16.7)   

Miscellaneous, net

    (80)        45         (125)        (74)        (51)        NM    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total

   $ (977)       $ (723)       $ 254        $ 310        $ (56)        (8.7)   
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

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Excluding the impact of the Merger, nonoperating expense decreased $56 million, or 8.7%, in 2011 as compared to 2010, which was primarily due to the pay down of debt obligations in 2011.

United and Continental - Results of Operations - 2012 Compared to 2011

United and Continental’s Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations have been abbreviated pursuant to General Instructions I(2)(a) of Form 10-K.

United

The following table presents information related to United’s results of operations for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

     2012      2011      % Change  

Passenger revenue

    $ 17,592         $ 18,088          (2.7)   

Cargo and other revenue

     3,369          3,067          9.8    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total operating revenue

    $ 20,961         $ 21,155          (0.9)   
  

 

 

    

 

 

    
        
        

Aircraft fuel

    $ 7,430         $ 7,080          4.9    

Salaries and related costs

     4,234          4,172          1.5    

Regional capacity purchase

     1,507          1,574          (4.3)   

Landing fees and other rent

     1,030          1,028          0.2    

Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs

     1,163          1,160          0.3    

Depreciation and amortization

     930          921          1.0    

Distribution expenses

     684          748          (8.6)   

Aircraft rent

     313          323          (3.1)   

Special charges

     984          433          NM    

Other operating expenses

     3,390          2,829          19.8    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total operating expense

    $ 21,665         $ 20,268          6.9    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    
        

Operating income (loss)

    $ (704)        $ 887          NM    

Nonoperating expense

     (475)         (603)         (21.2)   
        

RPMs

     112,955          116,078          (2.7)   

ASMs

     136,063          139,815          (2.7)   

United had an operating loss of $704 million in 2012 as compared to operating income of $887 million in 2011.

As compared to 2011, United’s consolidated revenue decreased $194 million, or 0.9%, to $21 billion during 2012. These decreases were due to a decline in capacity in 2012 as compared to the same period in 2011 in addition to a one-time special revenue item in 2011, as discussed in UAL’s results of operations above. United’s traffic and capacity both decreased approximately 2.7%, while passenger revenue per available seat mile remained flat. Average fares were also higher due to fare increases implemented in response to higher fuel prices. In addition, the Company sold aircraft fuel to a third party, which is earnings-neutral but results in revenue and expense, specifically cost of sale which is unrelated to the operation of the airline. United also had fuel sales to Continental that are eliminated upon consolidation of UAL’s financial results.

 

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Expense allocations between United and Continental are based on metrics that are systematic and rational; however, the amounts allocated for 2012 and 2011 may not be representative of the actual expenses incurred. See Note 20 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information.

United’s operating expenses increased approximately $1.4 billion, or 6.9%, in 2012 as compared to 2011, which was primarily due to the following:

 

   

An increase of approximately $350 million, or 4.9%, in aircraft fuel expense, which was primarily driven by volatility in market prices for aircraft fuel, as highlighted in the fuel table in 2012 compared to 2011 - Operating Expense, above;

 

   

An increase of $62 million, or 1.5%, in salaries and related costs which was primarily driven by new collective bargaining agreements for the Company’s pilots, flight attendants and mechanics;

 

   

A decrease of $64 million, or 8.6%, in distribution expenses due to lower credit card discount fees driven by legislation reducing costs on debit card sales and lower volumes on global distributions systems fees paid in 2012 as compared to 2011;

 

   

An increase of $551 million in special charges in 2012 as compared to the year-ago period primarily due to modification of the Company’s obligations to the PBGC, the United and Continental pilots’ ratification of a new joint collective bargaining agreement with the Company and voluntary severance; and

 

   

An increase of $561 million, or 19.8%, in other operating expenses in 2012 as compared to the year-ago period primarily due to the cost of fuel sales to Continental that are eliminated upon consolidation of the Company’s financial results, additional trip interruption costs, hotel and per diem expenses, personnel-related expenses and additional denied boarding costs.

United’s nonoperating expense decreased $128 million, or 21.2%, in 2012 as compared to 2011, which was primarily due to the pay down of debt obligations in 2012 and 2011.

 

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Continental

The following table presents information related to Continental’s results of operations for the year ended December 31 (in millions, except percentage changes):

 

(In millions)

   2012      2011      % Change  

Operating Revenue:

        

Passenger revenue

    $ 14,991         $ 14,417          4.0    

Cargo and other revenue

     1,984          1,758          12.9    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total operating revenue

    $ 16,975         $ 16,175          4.9    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    
        

Operating Expense:

        

Aircraft fuel

    $ 5,709         $ 5,294          7.8    

Salaries and related costs

     3,559          3,405          4.5    

Regional capacity purchase

     963          830          16.0    

Landing fees and other rent

     902          900          0.2    

Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs

     654          595          9.9    

Depreciation and amortization

     592          626          (5.4)   

Distribution expenses

     668          688          (2.9)   

Aircraft rent

     680          686          (0.9)   

Special charges

     339          159          NM    

Other operating expenses

     2,155          2,042          5.5    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

Total operating expense

    $ 16,221         $ 15,225          6.5    
  

 

 

    

 

 

    
        

Operating income

    $ 754         $ 950          (20.6)   

Nonoperating expense

     (232)         (387)         (40.1)   
        

RPMs

     92,530          91,453          1.2    

ASMs

     112,797          112,713          0.1    

Continental’s operating income was $754 million and $950 million in the 2012 and 2011 period, respectively. Continental’s consolidated revenue increased 4.9% in 2012 as compared to the 2011 period. These improvements were largely due to increases in regional flying, sales of miles to third parties, and intercompany transactions that are eliminated upon consolidation of the Company’s financial results, offset by decreases in cargo revenue, as compared to the same period in 2011.

Expense allocations between United and Continental are based on metrics that are systematic and rational; however, the amounts allocated for 2012 and 2011 may not be representative of the actual expenses incurred. See Note 20 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information.

Continental’s operating expenses increased approximately $996 million, or 6.5%, in 2012 compared to 2011, which was primarily due to the following:

 

   

Aircraft fuel expense increased $415 million, or 7.8%, in 2012 as compared to 2011, primarily driven by volatility in market prices for aircraft fuel. Continental had fuel hedge losses of $65 million in 2012 as compared to fuel hedge gains of $86 million in 2011. Continental’s increase in aircraft fuel expense is relatively consistent with UAL’s increased cost of fuel summarized in the tables above;

 

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Regional capacity purchase expense increased $133 million, or 16%, in 2012 as compared to the year-ago period due to a contractual amendment with one of our regional carrier partners to shift the arrangement from a prorate agreement to a capacity purchase agreement;

 

   

Aircraft maintenance materials and outside repairs increased by $59 million, or 9.9%, in 2012 as compared to the combined 2011 period, primarily due to increased rates and volume on aircraft engine maintenance;

 

   

An increase of $180 million in special charges in 2012 as compared to the year-ago period primarily due to United and Continental pilots’ ratification of a new joint collective bargaining agreement with the Company; and

 

   

Other operating expenses increased by $113 million, or 5.5%, in 2012 primarily due to aircraft redeployment as a result of the Merger and additional trip interruption costs, hotel and per diem expenses, personnel-related expenses, and additional denied boarding costs.

Nonoperating expense includes a $1 million loss from fuel hedge ineffectiveness in 2012 as compared to a $38 million loss from fuel hedge ineffectiveness in the year ago period. Continental’s nonoperating expense also includes a net gain of $42 million associated with marking to market the fair value of derivative assets and liabilities related to agreements that provide for Continental’s convertible debt to be settled with UAL common stock. This net gain and related derivatives are reflected only in the Continental stand-alone financial statements. See Note 12 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2012, UAL had $6.5 billion in unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, a decrease of $1.2 billion from December 31, 2011. The Company also has a $500 million undrawn Credit and Guaranty Agreement (the “Revolving Credit Facility”) as of December 31, 2012. As of December 31, 2012, UAL had $447 million of restricted cash and cash equivalents, which is primarily collateral for performance bonds, letters of credit, credit card processing agreements and estimated future workers’ compensation claims. We may be required to post significant additional cash collateral to provide security for obligations that are not currently backed by cash. Restricted cash and cash equivalents at December 31, 2011 totaled $569 million. As of December 31, 2012, United had cash collateralized $77 million of letters of credit, most of which had previously been issued and collateralized under the provisions of the Amended and Restated Revolving Credit, Term Loan and Guaranty Agreement, dated as of February 2, 2007 (the “Amended Credit Facility”). As of December 31, 2012, the Company had all of its commitment capacity under its $500 million Revolving Credit Facility available for letters of credit or borrowings.

As is the case with many of our principal competitors, we have a high proportion of debt compared to capital. We have a significant amount of fixed obligations, including debt, aircraft leases and financings, leases of airport property and other facilities and pension funding obligations. At December 31, 2012, UAL had approximately $13.2 billion of debt and capital lease obligations, including $1.9 billion that are due within the next 12 months. In addition, we have substantial non-cancelable commitments for capital expenditures, including the acquisition of new aircraft and related spare engines. The Company had principal payments of debt and capital lease obligations totaling $1.5 billion in 2012.

The Company will continue to evaluate opportunities to repurchase its debt in open market transactions to reduce its indebtedness and the amount of interest paid on its indebtedness.

As of December 31, 2012, UAL had firm commitments to purchase 100 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft scheduled for delivery from 2018 through 2022. UAL also had options to purchase an additional 100 Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft. UAL had the right, and intends in the future, to assign its interest under the purchase agreement for the 737 MAX 9 aircraft with respect to one or more of the aircraft to either United or Continental.

As of December 31, 2012, United had firm commitments to purchase 100 new aircraft (25 Boeing 787 aircraft, 50 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and 25 Airbus A350XWB aircraft) scheduled for delivery from 2013 through

 

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2020. United also had options and purchase rights for additional aircraft. In 2013, United expects to take delivery of ten Boeing 737-900ER aircraft.

As of December 31, 2012, Continental had firm commitments to purchase 47 new aircraft (23 Boeing 737 aircraft and 24 Boeing 787 aircraft) scheduled for delivery from January 1, 2013 through 2016. Continental also had options to purchase 74 Boeing aircraft. In 2013, Continental expects to take delivery of 14 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and two Boeing 787-8 aircraft.

As of December 31, 2012, Continental had arranged for enhanced equipment trust certificate (“EETC”) financing of 14 Boeing 737-900ER aircraft and one Boeing 787-8 aircraft scheduled for delivery from January through July 2013. In addition, United had secured backstop financing commitments from its widebody aircraft and engine manufacturers for a limited number of its future aircraft deliveries, subject to certain customary conditions. However, UAL and United do not have backstop financing or any other financing currently in place for their firm narrowbody aircraft orders with Boeing, and Continental does not have backstop financing or any other financing currently in place for its other Boeing aircraft on order. Financing will be necessary to satisfy the Company’s capital commitments for its firm order aircraft and other related capital expenditures. The Company can provide no assurance that any financing not already in place for aircraft and spare engine deliveries will be available to the Company on acceptable terms when necessary or at all. See Notes 14 and 17 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information.

For 2013, the Company expects to make approximately $2.5 billion of gross capital expenditures ($1.4 billion net of anticipated financings, including net purchase deposits).

As of December 31, 2012, a substantial portion of UAL’s assets, principally aircraft, spare engines, aircraft spare parts, route authorities and certain other intangible assets, was pledged under various loan and other agreements. See Note 14 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for additional information on assets provided as collateral by the Company.

Although access to the capital markets improved in 2012 and 2011, as evidenced by our financing transactions in both years, we cannot give any assurances that we will be able to obtain additional financing or otherwise access the capital markets in the future on acceptable terms, or at all. We must sustain our profitability and/or access the capital markets to meet our significant long-term debt and capital lease obligations and future commitments for capital expenditures, including the acquisition of aircraft and related spare engines.

The following is a discussion of UAL’s sources and uses of cash from 2010 to 2012. As UAL applied the acquisition method of accounting to the Merger, UAL’s cash activities discussed below include Continental’s activities only after October 1, 2010.

Cash Flows from Operating Activities

2012 compared to 2011

UAL’s cash from operating activities decreased by $1.5 billion in 2012, as compared to 2011. Cash from operations declined due to the Company’s net loss position and the reduction of frequent flyer deferred revenue and advanced purchase of miles by $712 million in 2012.

2011 compared to 2010

UAL’s cash from operating activities increased by $501 million in 2011, as compared to 2010. Cash from operations improved due to the Company’s improved operational performance in 2011. The Company’s increased revenues were offset in part by higher cash operating expenses resulting from the Merger, including fuel and aircraft maintenance expense.

 

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Cash Flows from Investing Activities

2012 compared to 2011

UAL’s capital expenditures, including aircraft purchase deposits, were $2 billion and $840 million in 2012 and 2011, respectively. UAL’s capital expenditures for 2012 were primarily attributable to the purchase of new Boeing aircraft and other fleet-related expenditures to improve the onboard experience of our existing aircraft.

UAL increased its short-term investments, net of proceeds, by $245 million in 2012 in order to improve interest income.

2011 compared to 2010

UAL’s capital expenditures, including aircraft purchase deposits, were $840 million and $416 million in 2011 and 2010, respectively. Approximately half of the capital expenditures in 2011 related to aircraft upgrades across the Company’s fleet for its international premium travel product as well as various facility and ground equipment projects. Some of these capital expenditures relate to improvements to assets as a result of the Merger. Also, in 2011, the Company purchased nine aircraft that were operated under leases for $88 million and were immediately sold to third parties upon acquisition for proceeds of $72 million.

In December 2011, United cash collateralized $194 million of its letters of credit that had previously been issued and collateralized under the Amended Credit Facility, resulting in an increase in restricted cash.

UAL increased its short-term investments, net of proceeds, by $898 million in 2011 as compared to 2010. This was primarily due to the placement of additional funds with outside money managers and movement of liquid assets from cash to short-term investments. United’s short-term investments, net of proceeds, increased by $269 million while Continental’s short-term investments, net of proceeds, increased by $629 million in 2011 as compared to 2010.

Cash Flows from Financing Activities

Significant financing events in 2012 were as follows:

 

   

In March 2012, Continental created two pass-through trusts that issued an aggregate principal amount of $892 million of pass-through certificates. Continental received all $892 million in proceeds raised by the pass-through trusts as of December 31, 2012 in exchange for Continental’s issuance of an equivalent principal amount of equipment notes, which has been recorded as debt. The proceeds were used to fund the acquisition of new aircraft, and in the case of currently owned aircraft, for general corporate purposes;

 

   

In October 2012, Continental created two pass-through trusts, one of which issued $712 million aggregate principal amount of Class A pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 4% and the second of which issued $132 million aggregate principal amount of Class B pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 5.5%. The proceeds of the issuance of the Class A and Class B pass-through certificates, which amounted to $844 million, are used to purchase equipment notes issued by Continental. Of the $844 million in proceeds raised by the pass-through trusts, Continental received $293 million as of December 31, 2012. Continental expects to receive the remaining proceeds from the issuance during the first seven months of 2013 as aircraft are delivered to Continental and Continental issues equipment notes to the trusts. Continental records the debt obligation upon issuance of the equipment notes rather than upon the initial issuance of the pass-through certificates. The proceeds have been and are expected to be used to fund the acquisition of new aircraft;

 

   

In December 2012, Continental created one pass-through trust which issued $425 million aggregate principal amount of Class C pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 6.125%. The proceeds of the issuance of the Class C pass-through certificates are used to purchase equipment notes issued by Continental related to the aircraft financed in both the March and October 2012 EETC financings. Of the $425 million in proceeds raised by the pass-through trust, Continental received $278 million as of December 31, 2012. Continental expects to receive the remaining proceeds from the issuance during the

 

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first seven months of 2013 as aircraft are delivered to Continental and Continental issues equipment notes to the trust. Continental records the debt obligation upon issuance of the equipment notes rather than upon the initial issuance of the pass-through certificates;

 

   

During the year ended December 31, 2012, UAL made debt and capital lease payments of $1.5 billion, including prepayments. These payments include $195 million related to Continental’s Series 2002-1 EETCs; and

 

   

In August 2012, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (the “Authority”) issued approximately $101 million of special facility revenue bonds (the “2012 Bonds”) to provide funds for the defeasance of approximately $100 million of the Authority’s previously issued and outstanding special facility revenue bonds maturing on September 15, 2012 (the “Refunded Bonds”). The Refunded Bonds were guaranteed by Continental and payable from certain rental payments made by Continental pursuant to two lease agreements between the Authority and Continental. The 2012 Bonds are payable from certain loan repayments made by Continental under a loan agreement between Continental and the Authority. The 2012 Bonds are recorded by Continental as unsecured long-term debt.

Significant financing events in 2011 were as follows:

 

 

The Company entered into a $500 million Revolving Credit Facility with a syndicate of banks, led by Citibank, N.A., as administrative agent. The facility was undrawn at December 31, 2012 and has an expiration date of January 30, 2015. It is secured by take-off and landing slots at Newark Liberty International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Reagan National Airport and certain other assets of United and Continental. The Company terminated its prior $255 million revolver under the Amended Credit Facility on December 21, 2011. As of December 31, 2012, the Company had all of its commitment capacity under the Revolving Credit Facility available for letters of credit or borrowings;

 

 

During 2011, UAL made debt and capital lease payments of $2.6 billion. These payments include $150 million related to the repurchase of UAL’s 5% Senior Convertible Notes and $570 million related to the repurchase of UAL’s 4.5% Senior Limited-Subordination Convertible Notes; and

 

 

Continental received $239 million in 2011 from its December 2010 pass-through trust financing. The proceeds were used to fund the acquisition of new aircraft and in the case of the currently owned aircraft, for general corporate purposes.

Significant financing events in 2010 were as follows:

 

 

In January 2010, United issued $500 million of the United Senior Secured Notes due 2013 and $200 million of the United Senior Second Lien Notes due 2013, which were secured by United’s route authority to operate between the United States and Japan and beyond Japan to points in other countries, certain airport takeoff and landing slots and airport gate leaseholds utilized in connection with these routes;

 

 

In January 2010, United issued the remaining $1.3 billion in principal amount of the equipment notes relating to the Series 2009-1 and 2009-2 EETCs. Issuance proceeds of approximately $1.1 billion were used to repay the Series 2000-2 and 2001-1 EETCs and the remaining proceeds were used for general corporate purposes;

 

 

In December 2010, Continental issued approximately $427 million of Series 2010-1 Class A and Class B pass-through certificates through two pass-through trusts. In December 2010, Continental issued $188 million in principal amount of equipment notes relating to its December 2010 pass-through trust financing. Continental used $90 million of the proceeds for general corporate purposes and $98 million of the proceeds to purchase three new Boeing 737 aircraft. The proceeds used to purchase the three new Boeing 737 aircraft were accounted for as a noncash investing and financing activity; and

 

 

In 2010, United acquired six aircraft through the exercise of its lease purchase options. Aircraft lease deposits of $236 million provided financing cash that was primarily utilized by United to make the final payments due under these capital lease obligations.

For additional information regarding these matters and other liquidity events, see Notes 5, 14 and 15 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report.

 

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Credit Ratings. As of the filing date of this report, UAL, United and Continental had the following corporate credit ratings:

 

         S&P    Moody’s    Fitch
  UAL    B    B2    B
  United    B    B2    B
  Continental    B    B2    B

These credit ratings are below investment grade levels. Downgrades from these rating levels, among other things, could restrict the availability and/or increase the cost of future financing for the Company.

Other Liquidity Matters

Below is a summary of additional liquidity matters. See the indicated notes to our consolidated financial statements contained in Item 8 of this report for additional details related to these and other matters affecting our liquidity and commitments.

 

Pension and other postretirement benefit obligations

   Note 9

Hedging activities

   Note 13

Long-term debt

   Note 14

Operating leases

   Note 15

Regional capacity purchase agreements

   Note 15

Commitments and contingencies

   Note 17

Covenants. Certain of the Company’s financing agreements have covenants that impose certain operating and financial restrictions, as applicable, on the Company, on United and its material subsidiaries, or on Continental and its subsidiaries.

Among other covenants, UAL, United and certain of United’s subsidiaries are guarantors under the Amended Credit Facility and are required to maintain the minimum of the following as set forth below:

 

Unrestricted cash balance at all times (as defined in the Amended Credit Facility)

  $1.0 billion
Ratio of collateral value to debt obligations (that may increase if a specified dollar value of the route collateral is released)   1.5 to 1.0
Fixed charge coverage ratio for twelve month periods measured at the end of each calendar quarter   1.5 to 1.0

Additionally, the Revolving Credit Facility requires the Company to maintain the minimum of the following as set forth below:

 

Unrestricted liquidity at all times (includes unrestricted cash, short term investments and any undrawn amounts under any revolving credit facility)   $3.0 billion
Ratio of appraised value of collateral to the outstanding obligations under the Revolving Credit Facility   1.67 to 1.0

Among other covenants, the indenture governing Continental’s 6.75% Senior Secured Notes due 2015 (the “Senior Notes”) requires the issuer to maintain a minimum ratio of collateral value to debt obligations as of certain reference periods. If the value of the collateral underlying the Senior Notes declines such that Continental no longer maintains the minimum required ratio of collateral value to debt obligations, Continental 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.

 

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The amended and restated indenture for the New PBGC Notes, which are unsecured, contains covenants that, among other things, restrict the ability of UAL and its subsidiaries to incur additional indebtedness and pay dividends on or repurchase stock. These covenants cease to be in effect when the indenture covering the Senior Notes is discharged. However, if UAL at that time or thereafter has a series of public debt securities with a principal amount of $300 million or more that has the benefit of covenants that are substantially similar to those contained in the indenture for the New PBGC Notes, then subject to certain conditions and upon written request of the PBGC to UAL, UAL and United will use commercially reasonable efforts to amend the indenture for the New PBGC Notes to include such covenants.

A breach of certain of the covenants or restrictions contained in the Amended Credit Facility, the Revolving Credit Facility, the indenture governing the Senior Notes or certain other debt instruments could result in a default and a subsequent acceleration of the applicable debt obligations. The indenture governing the Senior Notes contains a cross-default provision that would be triggered if Continental were to fail to make payment when due with respect to certain obligations regarding frequent flyer miles purchased by Chase under the Company’s Co-Brand Agreement. The Revolving Credit Facility includes events of default customary for similar financings. In addition, the Amended Credit Facility and the Revolving Credit Facility contain cross-default and/or cross-acceleration provisions pursuant to which default and/or acceleration of certain other material indebtedness of the Company could result in a default under the Amended Credit Facility, the Revolving Credit Facility, or both.

The Company has agreements with financial institutions that process customer credit card transactions for the sale of air travel and other services. Under certain of the Company’s credit card processing agreements, the financial institutions either require, or under certain circumstances have the right to require, that the Company maintains a reserve equal to a portion of advance ticket sales that has been processed by that financial institution, but for which the Company has not yet provided the air transportation. Such financial institutions may require additional cash or other collateral reserves to be established or additional withholding of payments related to receivables collected if the Company does not maintain certain minimum levels of unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short term investments. The Company’s current level of unrestricted cash, cash equivalents and short term investments is substantially in excess of these minimum levels.

Capital Commitments and Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements. The Company’s business is capital intensive, requiring significant amounts of capital to fund the acquisition of assets, particularly aircraft. In the past, the Company has funded the acquisition of aircraft through outright purchase, by issuing debt, by entering into capital or operating leases, or through vendor financings. The Company also often enters into long-term lease commitments with airports to ensure access to terminal, cargo, maintenance and other required facilities.

The table below provides a summary of UAL’s material contractual obligations as of December 31, 2012 (in billions):

 

    2013     2014     2015     2016     2017     After
2017
    Total  

Long-term debt (a)

    $ 1.8          $ 2.1          $ 2.0          $ 1.0          $ 0.5          $ 5.0          $ 12.4     

Capital lease obligations—principal portion

    0.1          0.1          0.1          0.1          0.1          0.4          0.9     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total debt and capital lease obligations

    1.9          2.2          2.1          1.1          0.6          5.4          13.3     

Interest on debt and capital lease obligations (b)

    0.7          0.6          0.6          0.4          0.3          2.0          4.6     

Aircraft operating lease obligations

    1.5          1.5          1.2          1.0          0.9          1.4          7.5     

Capacity purchase agreements (c)

    1.8          1.6          1.4          1.2          1.2          2.3          9.5     

Other operating lease obligations

    1.1          1.0          0.8          0.7          0.7          5.4          9.7     

Postretirement obligations (d)

    0.1          0.1          0.2          0.2          0.2          0.9          1.7     

Pension obligations (e)

    0.2          0.1          0.2          0.2          0.2          1.2          2.1     

Capital purchase obligations (f)

    1.8          1.5          2.0          3.0          2.5          7.1          17.9     
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total contractual obligations

    $ 9.1          $ 8.6          $ 8.5          $ 7.8          $ 6.6          $ 25.7          $ 66.3     

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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(a) Long-term debt presented in UAL’s financial statements is net of a $152 million debt discount which is being amortized over the debt terms. Contractual payments are not net of the debt discount. Contractual long-term debt includes $83 million of non-cash obligations as these debt payments are made directly to the creditor by a company that leases three aircraft from United. The creditor’s only recourse to United is repossession of the aircraft.
(b) Includes interest portion of capital lease obligations of $92 million in 2013, $81 million in 2014, $63 million in 2015, $57 million in 2016, $37 million in 2017 and $210 million thereafter. Future interest payments on variable rate debt are estimated using estimated future variable rates based on a yield curve.
(c) Represents our estimates of future minimum noncancelable commitments under our capacity purchase agreements and does not include the portion of the underlying obligations for aircraft and facility rent that is disclosed as part of aircraft and nonaircraft operating leases. Amounts also exclude a portion of United’s capital lease obligation recorded for certain of its capacity purchase agreements. See Note 15 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for the significant assumptions used to estimate the payments.
(d) Amounts represent postretirement benefit payments, net of subsidy receipts, through 2022. Benefit payments approximate plan contributions as plans are substantially unfunded.
(e) Represents estimate of the minimum funding requirements as determined by government regulations for Continental plans only, as the United plans are not material. Amounts are subject to change based on numerous assumptions, including the performance of assets in the plan and bond rates. See Critical Accounting Policies, below, for a discussion of our assumptions regarding UAL’s pension plans.
(f) Represents contractual commitments for firm order aircraft and spare engines only, net of previously paid purchase deposits, and noncancelable commitments to purchase goods and services, primarily information technology support. See Note 17 to the financial statements included in Item 8 of this report for a discussion of our purchase commitments.

Contingencies

Continental EETCs.

In October 2012, Continental created two pass-through trusts, one of which issued $712 million aggregate principal amount of Class A pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 4% and the second of which issued $132 million aggregate principal amount of Class B pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 5.5%. The proceeds of the issuance of the Class A and Class B pass-through certificates, which amounted to $844 million, are used to purchase equipment notes issued by Continental. Of the $844 million in proceeds raised by the pass-through trusts, Continental received $293 million as of December 31, 2012, Continental expects to receive the remaining proceeds from the issuance during the first seven months of 2013 as aircraft are delivered to Continental and Continental issues equipment notes to the trusts. Continental records the debt obligation upon issuance of the equipment notes rather than upon the initial issuance of the pass-through certificates. The proceeds have been and are expected to be used to fund the acquisition of new aircraft.

In December 2012, Continental created one pass-through trust which issued $425 million aggregate principal amount of Class C pass-through certificates with a stated interest rate of 6.125%. The proceeds of the issuance of the Class C pass-through certificates are used to purchase equipment notes issued by Continental related to the aircraft financed in both the March and October 2012 EETC financings. Of the $425 million in proceeds raised by the pass-through trusts, Continental had received $278 million as of December 31, 2012. Continental expects to receive the remaining proceeds from the issuance during the first seven months of 2013 as aircraft are delivered to Continental and Continental issues equipment notes to the trusts. Continental records the debt obligation upon issuance of the equipment notes rather than upon the initial issuance of the pass-through certificates.

The Company evaluated whether the pass-through trusts formed are variable interest entities (“VIEs”) required to be consolidated by the Company under applicable accounting guidance, and determined that the pass-through trusts are VIEs. The Company determined that it does not have a variable interest in the pass-through trusts. The Company does not invest in or obtain a financial interest in the pass-through trusts. Rather, Continental has an obligation to make interest and principal payments on its equipment notes held by the pass-through trusts. The Company did not intend to have any voting or non-voting equity interest in the pass-through trusts or to absorb variability from the pass-through trusts. Based on this analysis, the Company determined that it is not required to consolidate the pass-through trusts.

Legal and Environmental. The Company has certain contingencies resulting from litigation and claims incident to the ordinary course of business. Management believes, after considering a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the information currently available, the views of legal counsel, the nature of contingencies to

 

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which the Company is subject and prior experience, that the ultimate disposition of the litigation and claims will not materially affect the Company’s consolidated financial position or results of operations. The Company records liabilities for legal and environmental claims when a loss is probable and reasonably estimable. These amounts are recorded based on the Company’s assessments of the likelihood of their eventual disposition.

Many aspects of the Company’s operations are subject to increasingly stringent federal, state and local and international laws protecting the environment. Future environmental regulatory developments, such as climate change regulations in the U.S. and abroad, could adversely affect operations and increase operating costs in the airline industry.

There are certain laws and regulations relating to climate change that apply to the Company, including the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (which is subject to international dispute), environmental taxes for certain international flights (including the United Kingdom’s Air Passenger Duty and Germany’s departure ticket tax), limited greenhouse gas reporting requirements, and the State of California’s cap and trade regulations (which impacts United’s San Francisco maintenance center). In addition, there are land-based planning laws that could apply to airport expansion projects, requiring a review of greenhouse gas emissions, and could affect airlines in certain circumstances.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements. An off-balance sheet arrangement is any transaction, agreement or other contractual arrangement involving an unconsolidated entity under which a company has (1) made guarantees, (2) a retained or a contingent interest in transferred assets, (3) an obligation under derivative instruments classified as equity, or (4) any obligation arising out of a material variable interest in an unconsolidated entity that provides financing, liquidity, market risk or credit risk support, or that engages in leasing, hedging or research and development arrangements. The Company’s primary off-balance sheet arrangements include operating leases, which are summarized in the contractual obligations table in Capital Commitments and Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements, above, and certain municipal bond obligations, as discussed below.

As of December 31, 2012, United had cash collateralized $77 million of letters of credit, most of which had previously been issued under the Amended Credit Facility. United also had $300 million of performance bonds. Continental had letters of credit and performance bonds relating to various real estate, customs and aircraft financing obligations at December 31, 2012 in the amount of approximately $67 million. Most of the letters of credit have evergreen clauses and are expected to be renewed on an annual basis and the performance bonds have expiration dates through 2016.

As of December 31, 2012, United and Continental are the guarantors of approximately $270 million and $1.6 billion, respectively, in aggregate principal amount of tax-exempt special facilities revenue bonds and interest thereon. These bonds, issued by various airport municipalities, are payable solely from rentals paid under long-term agreements with the respective governing bodies. The leasing arrangements associated with a majority of these obligations are accounted for as operating leases and are not recorded in United’s and Continental’s financial statements. The leasing arrangements associated with a minority of these obligations are accounted for as capital leases. The annual lease payments for those obligations accounted for as operating leases are included in the operating lease payments in the contractual obligations table in Capital Commitments and Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements, above.

Increased Cost Provisions. In the Company’s financing transactions that include loans, the Company typically agrees to reimburse lenders for any reduced returns with respect to the loans due to any change in capital requirements and, in the case of loans in which the interest rate is based on LIBOR, for certain other increased costs that the lenders incur in carrying these loans as a result of any change in law, subject in most cases to certain mitigation obligations of the lenders. At December 31, 2012, UAL had $2.6 billion of floating rate debt (consisting of United’s $1.9 billion and Continental’s $658 million of debt) and $347 million of fixed rate debt (consisting of United’s $186 million and Continental’s $161 million of debt), with remaining terms of up to ten years, that are subject to these increased cost provisions. In several financing transactions involving loans or leases from non-U.S. entities, with remaining terms of up to nine years and an aggregate balance of $2.8 billion (consisting of United’s $2.1 billion and Continental’s $744 million balance), we bear the risk of any change in tax laws that would subject loan or lease payments thereunder to non-U.S. entities to withholding taxes, subject to customary exclusions.

 

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Fuel Consortia. The Company participates in numerous fuel consortia with other carriers at major airports to reduce the costs of fuel distribution and storage. Interline agreements govern the rights and responsibilities of the consortia members and provide for the allocation of the overall costs to operate the consortia based on usage. The consortia (and in limited cases, the participating carriers) have entered into long-term agreements to lease certain airport fuel storage and distribution facilities that are typically financed through tax-exempt bonds (either special facilities lease revenue bonds or general airport revenue bonds), issued by various local municipalities. In general, each consortium lease agreement requires the consortium to make lease payments in amounts sufficient to pay the maturing principal and interest payments on the bonds. As of December 31, 2012, approximately $1.3 billion principal amount of such bonds were secured by significant fuel facility leases in which UAL participates, as to which UAL and each of the signatory airlines have provided indirect guarantees of the debt. As of December 31, 2012, UAL’s contingent exposure was approximately $259 million principal amount of such bonds based on its recent consortia participation. As of December 31, 2012, United’s and Continental’s contingent exposure related to these bonds, based on its recent consortia participation, was approximately $198 million and $61 million, respectively. The Company’s contingent exposure could increase if the participation of other air carriers decreases. The guarantees will expire when the tax-exempt bonds are paid in full, which range from 2014 to 2041. The Company did not record a liability at the time these indirect guarantees were made.

United and Continental - Cash Flows Activities - 2012 Compared to 2011

United

Operating Activities

United’s cash from operating activities decreased by $556 million in 2012 as compared to 2011. This year-over-year decrease was primarily due to United’s net income being $1.5 billion lower in 2012 than 2011 which was largely offset by an increase in advance ticket sales and receivables.

Investing Activities

United’s capital expenditures, including aircraft purchase deposits, were $791 million and $470 million in 2012 and 2011, respectively. United’s capital expenditures in 2012 related to upgrades to existing aircraft in addition to asset improvements to facilities and other ground equipment.

Financing Activities

United’s significant financing activities in 2012 and 2011 are described in the above discussion of UAL’s financing activities in Liquidity and Capital Resources and Note 14 to the financial statements in Item 8 of this report.

Continental

Operating Activities

Continental’s cash from operating activities decreased by $920 million in 2012 as compared to the 2011 period. This year-over-year decrease was primarily due to a decrease in receivables and advance ticket sales.

Investing Activities

Continental’s capital expenditures, including aircraft purchase deposits, were $1.2 billion and $370 million in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Consistent with UAL’s investing activities above, Continental’s capital expenditures in 2012 relate to the purchase of new Boeing aircraft and other fleet-related expenditures to improve the onboard experience of our existing aircraft.

Financing Activities

Continental’s significant financing activities in 2012 and 2011 are described in the above discussion of UAL’s financing activities in Liquidity and Capital Resources and Note 14 to the financial statements in Item 8 of this report.

 

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Critical Accounting Policies

Critical accounting policies are defined as those that are affected by significant judgments and uncertainties which potentially could result in materially different accounting under different assumptions and conditions. The Company has prepared the financial statements in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, which requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts in the financial statements. Actual results could differ from those estimates under different assumptions or conditions. The Company has identified the following critical accounting policies that impact the preparation of the financial statements.

Passenger Revenue Recognition. The value of unused passenger tickets is included in current liabilities as advance ticket sales. The Company records passenger ticket sales and tickets sold by other airlines for use on United and Continental as passenger revenue when the transportation is provided or upon estimated breakage. Tickets sold by other airlines are recorded at the estimated values to be billed to the other airlines. Non-refundable tickets generally expire on the date of the intended flight, unless the date is extended by notification from the customer on or before the intended flight date.

Fees charged in association with changes or extensions to non-refundable tickets are recorded as other revenue at the time the fee is collected. The fare on the changed ticket, including any additional collection, is deferred and recognized in accordance with our transportation revenue recognition policy at the time the transportation is provided. Change fees related to non-refundable tickets are considered a separate transaction from the air transportation because they represent a charge for the Company’s additional service to modify a previous sale. Therefore, the pricing of the change fee and the initial customer reservation are separately determined and represent distinct earnings processes. Refundable tickets expire after one year.

The Company records an estimate of breakage revenue for tickets that will expire in twelve months without usage. These estimates are based on the evaluation of actual historical results. The Company recognizes cargo and other revenue as service is provided. See separate discussion in Frequent Flyer Accounting, below.

Frequent Flyer Accounting

Frequent Flyer Accounting. The Company has a frequent flyer program that is designed to increase customer loyalty. Program participants earn mileage credits (“miles”) by flying on United or Continental and certain other participating airlines. Program participants can also earn miles through purchases from other non-airline partners that participate in the Company’s loyalty program. We sell miles to these partners, which include credit card issuers, retail merchants, hotels, car rental companies and our participating airline partners. Miles can be redeemed for free, discounted or upgraded air travel and non-travel awards. The Company records its obligation for future award redemptions using a deferred revenue model.

Miles Earned in Conjunction with Flights. In the case of the sale of air services, the Company recognizes a portion of the ticket sales as revenue when the air transportation occurs and defers a portion of the ticket sale representing the value of the related miles.

In accordance with ASU 2009-13, the Company determines the estimated selling price of the air transportation and miles as if each element is sold on a separate basis. The total consideration from each ticket sale is then allocated to each of these elements individually on a pro rata basis. The Company revised the estimated selling price of miles as a prospective change in estimate, effective January 1, 2012, and it is based on the price we sell miles to Star Alliance partners in our reciprocal frequent flyer agreements as the best estimate of selling price for these miles. Any changes to the composition of Star Alliance airline partners may result in the existing estimated selling price of air transportation miles no longer being representative of the best estimate of selling price and could result in a change to the amount and method we use to determine the estimated selling price. On February 14, 2013, US Airways announced an agreement to merge with AMR Corporation and its intent to exit Star Alliance as a result of such merger. We are currently unable to estimate the timing or amount of any changes to estimated selling price as a result of this merger.

 

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Co-branded Credit Card Partner Mileage Sales. United also has a significant contract to sell frequent flyer miles to its co-branded credit card partner, Chase. In June 2011, this contract was modified and the Company entered into the Co-Brand Agreement with Chase. The Company identified five revenue elements in the Co-Brand Agreement: the air transportation element represented by the value of the mile (generally resulting from its redemption for future air transportation); use of the United brand and access to frequent flyer member lists; advertising; baggage services; and airport lounge usage (together, excluding “the air transportation element”, the “marketing-related deliverables”).

The fair value of the elements is determined using management’s estimated selling price of each element. The objective of using the estimated selling price based methodology is to determine the price at which we would transact a sale if the product or service were sold on a stand-alone basis. Accordingly, we determine our best estimate of selling price by considering multiple inputs and methods including, but not limited to, discounted cash flows, brand value, volume discounts, published selling prices, number of miles awarded and number of miles redeemed. The Company estimated the selling prices and volumes over the term of the Co-Brand Agreement in order to determine the allocation of proceeds to each of the multiple elements to be delivered.

The estimated selling price of miles calculated is generally consistent with the methodology as described above in Miles Earned in Conjunction with Flights. United calculates its estimated selling price for miles based on the rate at which we sell miles to our Star Alliance partners participating in reciprocal frequent flyer programs as the estimated selling price for miles. Management prospectively applied this change in estimate effective January 1, 2012. The financial impact of this change in estimate in 2012 was substantially offset by the Company’s change in estimate of its breakage for a portion of its miles, which were previously not subject to an expiration policy. UAL accounts for miles sold and awarded that will never be redeemed by program members, which we referred to as “breakage,” using the redemption method. UAL reviews its breakage estimates annually based upon the latest available information regarding redemption and expiration patterns. The revised estimates to breakage in 2012 increased the estimate of miles in the population that are expected to ultimately expire.

The Company’s estimate of the expected expiration of miles requires significant management judgment. Current and future changes to expiration assumptions or to the expiration policy, or to program rules and program redemption opportunities, may result in material changes to the deferred revenue balance as well as recognized revenues from the programs.

The Company records passenger revenue related to the air transportation element when the transportation is delivered. The other elements are generally recognized as other operating revenue when earned.

The annual impact of adopting ASU 2009-13 on operating revenue will decrease over time. Our ability to project the annual decline for each year is significantly impacted by credit card sales volumes, frequent flyer redemption patterns, and other factors.

The following table summarizes information related to UAL’s and United’s frequent flyer deferred revenue liability:

 

Frequent flyer deferred revenue at December 31, 2012 (in millions)

   $ 5,120      

% of miles earned expected to expire or go unredeemed

     24%   

Impact of 1% change in outstanding miles or weighted average ticket value on deferred revenue (in millions)

   $ 79      

Goodwill and Indefinite-lived Intangible Assets. Goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets are not amortized but are reviewed for impairment annually, as of October 1, or more frequently if events or circumstances indicate that the asset may be impaired. Long-lived assets are amortized over their estimated useful lives and are reviewed for impairment whenever an indicator of impairment exists.

Goodwill represents the excess purchase price over the fair value of Continental’s assets acquired and liabilities assumed in the Merger. All goodwill and other purchase accounting adjustments have been pushed down to Continental’s financial statements.

 

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Goodwill is measured for impairment by initially comparing the fair value of the reporting unit to its carrying value, including goodwill. If the fair value of the reporting unit is less than the carrying value, a second step is performed to determine the implied fair value of goodwill. If the implied fair value of goodwill is lower than its carrying value, an impairment charge equal to the difference is recorded.

The Company has one consolidated reporting unit. In 2012, the Company estimated the fair value of the consolidated reporting unit using both an income and a market approach. The income approach computes fair value by discounting future cash flows of the business and is dependent on a number of critical management assumptions including estimates of future capacity, passenger yield, traffic, operating costs (including fuel prices), appropriate discount rates and other relevant assumptions. The market approach computes fair value by adding a control premium to the Company’s market capitalization. The Company’s fair value exceeded its carrying value under both approaches, and no goodwill impairment was recorded in 2012.

The Company is also required to assess the goodwill recorded on the separate financial statements of Continental for impairment. The fair value of Continental was determined by allocating a percentage of the fair value of the consolidated Company (as determined and described in the paragraph above). The percentage of the consolidated fair value allocated to Continental was based on a number of measures, including revenue share, available seat mile share, revenue passenger mile share and passenger share. Based on these criteria, this resulted in a fair value allocation of such assets to United and Continental of 54% and 46%, respectively. The fair value of Continental exceeded its carrying value, and no goodwill impairment was recorded as of December 31, 2012.

The Company’s indefinite-lived intangible assets include certain international route authorities, take-off and landing slots at various airports, airline partner alliances and the UAL trade name and logo. The fair values of the assets for purposes of the annual impairment test were determined using the market and income approaches. The fair value measurements were primarily based on significant inputs that are not observable in the market. We utilized the market approach to value certain intangible assets such as airport take-off and landing slots when sufficient market information was available. The income approach was primarily used to value the international route authorities, airline partner alliances, the UAL trade name and logo, and certain airport take-off and landing slots. The income approach indicates value for a subject asset based on the present value of cash flows projected to be generated by the asset. Projected cash flows are discounted at a required market rate of return that reflects the relative risk of achieving the cash flows and the time value of money.

In most cases, these indefinite-lived assets are separately associated with and directly assignable to each separate subsidiary. Any impairment charges resulting from the testing of the fair values of these indefinite-lived intangible assets are also assigned to the applicable separate subsidiary.

UAL recorded impairment charges for indefinite-lived intangible assets of $30 million, $4 million and $29 million during the years ended December 31, 2012, 2011 and 2010, respectively. During 2012 and 2011, Continental recorded impairment charges of $30 million and $4 million, respectively, on certain intangible assets related to European take-off and landing slots to reflect the estimated fair value of these assets as part of its annual impairment test of indefinite-lived intangible assets. In 2010, UAL recorded a $29 million impairment of its Brazil routes primarily due to the open skies agreement between the United States and Brazil which may result in a decrease in revenue from these routes.

Long-Lived Assets. The net book value of operating property and equipment for UAL was $17.3 billion and $16.4 billion at December 31, 2012 and 2011, respectively. The assets’ recorded value is impacted by a number of accounting policy elections, including the estimation of useful lives and residual values and, when necessary, the recognition of asset impairment charges.

The Company records assets acquired, including aircraft, at acquisition cost. Depreciable life is determined through economic analysis, such as reviewing existing fleet plans, obtaining appraisals and comparing estimated lives to other airlines that operate similar fleets. As aircraft technology has improved, useful life has increased and the Company has generally estimated the lives of those aircraft to be 30 years. Residual values are estimated based on historical experience with regard to the sale of both aircraft and spare parts and are established in

 

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conjunction with the estimated useful lives of the related fleets. Residual values are based on when the aircraft are acquired and typically reflect asset values that have not reached the end of their physical life. Both depreciable lives and residual values are revised periodically as facts and circumstances arise to recognize changes in the Company’s fleet plan and other relevant information. A one-year increase in the average depreciable life of UAL’s flight equipment would reduce annual depreciation expense on flight equipment by approximately $50 million.

The Company evaluates the carrying value of long-lived assets and intangible assets subject to amortization whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that an impairment may exist. For purposes of this testing, the Company has generally identified the aircraft fleet type as the lowest level of identifiable cash flows for purposes of testing aircraft for impairment. An impairment charge is recognized when the asset’s carrying value exceeds its net undiscounted future cash flows and its fair market value. The amount of the charge is the difference between the asset’s carrying value and fair market value.

Defined Benefit Plan Accounting. We sponsor defined benefit pension plans for eligible employees and retirees. The most critical assumptions impacting our defined benefit pension plan obligations and expenses are the weighted average discount rate and the expected long-term rate of return on the plan assets.

UAL’s pension plans’ under-funded status was $2.4 billion at December 31, 2012, nearly all of which is attributable to Continental’s plans. Funding requirements for tax-qualified defined benefit pension plans are determined by government regulations. We estimate that our minimum funding requirements for the Continental plans during 2012 is approximately $200 million. The fair value of the plans’ assets was $2.2 billion at December 31, 2012, of which $1.9 billion is attributed to assets of Continental’s plans.

The following discussion relates only to the Continental plans, as the United plans are not material.

When calculating pension expense for 2013, Continental assumed that its plans’ assets would generate a long-term rate of return of 7.75%. The expected long-term rate of return assumption was developed based on historical experience and input from the trustee managing the plans’ assets. The expected long-term rate of return on plan assets is based on a target allocation of assets, which is based on a goal of earning the highest rate of return while maintaining risk at acceptable levels. Our projected long-term rate of return is slightly higher than some market indices due to the active management of our plans’ assets, and is supported by the historical returns on our plans’ assets. The plans strive to have assets sufficiently diversified so that adverse or unexpected results from one security class will not have an unduly detrimental impact on the entire portfolio. We regularly review actual asset allocation and the pension plans’ investments are periodically rebalanced to the targeted allocation when considered appropriate.

The defined benefit pension plans’ assets consist of return generating investments and risk mitigating investments which are held through direct ownership or through interests in common collective trusts. Return generating investments include primarily equity securities, fixed-income securities and alternative investments (e.g. private equity and hedge funds). Risk mitigating investments include primarily U.S. government and investment grade corporate fixed-income securities. The allocation of assets was as follows at December 31, 2012:

 

     Percent of Total   

Expected Long-Term

Rate of Return      

Equity securities

   47.0  %    9.5  %

Fixed-income securities

   28.7         6.0     

Alternatives

   20.4         7.3     

Other

   3.9       3.8     

Pension expense increases as the expected rate of return on plan assets decreases. Lowering the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets by 50 basis points (from 7.75% to 7.25%) would increase estimated 2013 pension expense by approximately $10 million.

 

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Future pension obligations for the Continental plans were discounted using a weighted average rate of 4.25% at December 31, 2012. UAL selected the 2012 discount rate for each of its plans by using a hypothetical portfolio of high quality bonds at December 31, 2012 that would provide the necessary cash flows to match the projected benefit payments.

The pension liability and future pension expense both increase as the discount rate is reduced. Lowering the discount rate by 50 basis points (from 4.25% to 3.75%) would increase the pension liability at December 31, 2012 by approximately $457 million and increase the estimated 2013 pension expense by approximately $55 million.

Future changes in plan asset returns, plan provisions, assumed discount rates, pension funding law and various other factors related to the participants in our pension plans will impact our future pension expense and