United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby meets with fellow executives, union leaders and politicians for a press conference to call on Congress to approve an extension of the Payroll Support Program to cover thousands of travel jobs outside the U.S. Capitol on September 22, 2020 Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said Thursday that many more people will need coronavirus vaccines before the demand for travel returns, highlighting the difficult months for the industry.
United shares fell more than 5% in morning trading, more than any other stock in the S&P 500. The airline posted a $ 1.9 billion loss after market close on Wednesday, making it its fourth straight quarterly loss.
“Until we can put the coronavirus of society in the rearview mirror, it will continue to be a difficult aviation environment for anyone involved in travel, tourism and leisure,” Kirby said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box”.
The introduction of the vaccine has been slower than expected, raising questions about when the pandemic will be brought under control.
Kirby said it was too early to say when the freight forwarder would break even. Competitor Delta Air Lines announced last week that it would break even by spring.
“We really need to vaccinate a critical mass of people in the country and we also need some scientific medical conclusion that not only does it protect you from the virus when you are vaccinated, but it also protects you from the transmission of the virus,” said Kirby .
However, United was optimistic about long-term demand for travel. On Wednesday, the airline said it expected to exceed its pre-pandemic margins by 2023.