July 23 (Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc on Thursday reported a 51 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by lower fuel and maintenance costs, and announced a $3 billion buyback plan.
The Chicago-based airline earned $1.19 billion, or $3.14 cents per share, for the second quarter ended June 30, up from $789 million, or $2.01 per share, in the year ago period.
Excluding special items, it earned $3.31 per share, in line with analysts’ average estimate, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total operating costs, including a charge, fell 10 percent to $8.47 billion. Fuel expense fell 32 percent to $2.11 billion.
U.S.-based airlines are poised to save hundreds of millions of dollars more on fuel compared with last year since global crude oil prices have fallen about 50 percent from June last year.
Fuel is typically an airline’s largest variable cost, representing a third or more of operating expenses. (Reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)