United Announces Full-Year and Fourth-Quarter 2013 Profit

Airlines are not required to post alot of data that they do - but when a company chooses to stop published what they have done for months before, anyone must ask why.

And if they do publish data, it must be accurate or it must be corrected. If a company says that they will incur costs at a certain level and then it turns out to be significantly different, they are required to correct their guidance.

A 5% difference in costs - assuming they do manage to obtain parity with DL's costs on jet fuel - is a significant change that amounts to tens of millions if not hundreds of dollars.

If you have followed fuel prices, DL has outperformed UA on fuel price before so this estimate is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

It also goes to show that perhaps DL's refinery strategy really is beginning to pay dividends and it may be doing it to the greatest degree in NYC where DL said it would have the advantage of its own fuel. Neither DL or UA are saying where the difference in their costs is coming from but if it really is in NYC, it has enormous consequences on the competitive balance if DL is able to significantly reduce its largest expense in a market where it intends to grow relative to its competition, which for now is most directly UA.

As for weather impact, perhaps UA was more negatively hurt than other carriers but weather has been terrible throughout the US this winter. And if UA is being harder hit by having its largest hub at ORD while DL is faring better with its two hubs at MSP and DTW, then DL will take home more revenue. Weather, just like any other challenge, is something that management must figure out how to overcome.

Further, after quarter after quarter of B6 saying that they were impacted by one weather event after another in NYC, they are now saying that they are being hurt by an outflow of pilots. Pilot chat boards talk about B6 pilots leaving for the legacy/network carriers. There have also been UA pilots saying on chat boards that UA does not have the right number of pilots on the right aircraft which is compounded in weather situations. thus, the problem may or may not be just limited to weather.

I'm not mining any private data. This is real data that is found in public reports. These are questions which other analysts aren't asking but have potential enormous competitive impact.