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United says more people are canceling flights as COVID-19 cases soar ahead of the Thanksgiving travel rush

  • United Airlines said Thursday that it's seeing an increase in flight cancellations and a slowdown in new flight bookings ahead of the holiday season. 
  • The cancellations come at a time when COVID-19 cases are soaring across the United States. 
  • United said revenues are expected to be down by approximately 67% for the fourth quarter compared to last year. 
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United Airlines said Thursday that it's seeing an uptick in flight cancellations and a slowdown in new flight bookings as coronavirus cases continue to reach record highs in the United States.

For the week ending Monday, the carrier said "there has been a deceleration in system bookings and an uptick in cancellations," and reiterated that it does not expect reservations to recover in a "linear path."

Overall revenues are expected to be down by approximately 67% for the fourth quarter compared to last year, United warned. That's in-line with what company executives projected in October when the airline reported an 84% drop in passenger revenue.

"The next 12 to 15 months are still going to be difficult, and the recovery will not be a straight line," CEO Scott Kirby said on an October 15 conference call. "But we've done what we believe it takes to get through. We can see the recovery on the horizon, and our attention can now be firmly focused there."

Read more: American will lose its crown as the biggest US airline and could fall behind Delta and United as it struggles to pay off $38 billion in debt

For the quarter ended September 30, United reported a total loss of $2.4 billion, as overall airline traffic remains significantly muted. In the past week, the number of passengers screened by the Transportation Security Administration has averaged 787,000, or about 36% of 2019 levels for the same time period.

And as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, traditionally the busiest travel week of the year, COVID-19 cases could surge even further. An estimated 50 million Americans are expected to travel by some method, AAA estimates, down about 10 million from usual figures.

Officials in several states have urged people to host smaller gatherings or to go completely virtual, in order to avoid spreading the virus to family members or across state lines.

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