A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop
A United Airlines passenger jet takes off with New York City as a backdrop, at Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, U.S. December 6, 2019. Reuters

United Airlines Holdings on Tuesday forecast a profit for the current quarter well above Wall Street estimates after reporting higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings due to a robust rebound in travel demand.

Its shares were up nearly 7% to $39.73 in extended trading.

The Chicago-based carrier reported an adjusted profit of $2.81 per share for the third quarter, topping analysts' expectations by 53 cents, according to Refinitiv data. That marked the company's best performance since the third quarter of 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

A United Airlines Boeing 777-200  lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco
A United Airlines Boeing 777-200 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, April 14, 2015. Reuters

United said it expects an adjusted profit of $2.00 to $2.25 per share in the fourth quarter through December on a 24% to 25% jump in total revenue per available seat mile compared with the same quarter in 2019.

That would be more than double Wall Street projections of 98 cents a share for the fourth quarter.

Carriers are using 2019, before the pandemic, as the benchmark for their performance.

"Despite growing concerns about an economic slowdown, the ongoing COVID recovery trends at United continue to prevail and we remain optimistic that we'll continue to deliver strong financial results in the fourth quarter, 2023 and beyond," Chief Executive Scott Kirby said in a statement.

The company said it remains confident of hitting adjusted pre-tax margin target of 9% in 2023.

Air travel resumes amid lifting of COVID-19 mask mandate at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia
A United Airlines worker assists travelers after the Biden administration announced it would no longer enforce a U.S. coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mask mandate on public transportation, following a federal judge's ruling that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, U. Reuters

United's upbeat outlook comes days after rival Delta Air Lines Inc forecast stronger-than-expected profit in the fourth quarter on expectations that unquenched thirst for travel would drive up bookings despite growing risks of an economic recession.

U.S. carriers are enjoying the strongest consumer demand in three years. The reopening of borders closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a strong U.S. dollar are encouraging more Americans to travel overseas while office reopenings are boosting corporate travel demand.

That is helping United, which is more exposed to business and long-haul international travel than rivals.

For the third quarter, European passenger revenue was up by 40% from the same period in 2019, accounting for 21% of United's overall passenger revenue.

Buoyed by the demand, the company has announced it will ramp up its transatlantic capacity by 30% next year versus 2019.

United will discuss the results on a call with analysts and investors on Wednesday morning.