Aviation United hopeful that PR troubles won't hurt business By Robert Silk / April 18, 2017 Share 1 -- The incident on United Flight 3411 last week that sent the airline into an unprecedented public relations crisis hasn't caused it to downgrade performance expectations going into the second quarter. "Our forecast for the quarter didn't change at all," president Scott Kirby said during United's first-quarter earnings call Tuesday morning.Kirby added that it is too early to know if bookings have been impacted.Kirby, United CEO Oscar Munoz and CFO Andrew Levy each used the occasion of the call to once again take responsibility for what Kirby called "this terrible event," when David Dao was ultimately dragged off the April 9 flight from Chicago O'Hare to Louisville after he refused to give up his seat to a crew member of Republic Airways, which was operating the flight for United. Nevertheless, executives expressed confidence in the direction United is headed, with Kirby saying that a 3-month-old effort to fill in network gaps out of the airline's hubs is improving margins faster than expected. Kirby also highlighted improvements in United's operational performance. The mishandled-baggage rate was down year-over-year in the first quarter and United flew 25 days in the first quarter without a cancellation. Highlighting that achievement, Kirby said United did not have 25 cancellation-free days in the five-year period from 2011 through 2015. United is projecting that pre-tax profit margins in the next quarter will exceed this quarter's 1.7%, and that passenger revenue per available seat mile, a key industry metric, will rise 1% to 3%.For the first quarter, United recorded net income of $96 million, down from $313 million a year ago. Operating revenue jumped 2.7% to $8.42 billion, beating analyst expectations by $40 million, according to the website Seeking Alpha. However, expenses increased 7.9% as salaries went up and fuel costs rose.United's earnings per share was 41 cents, beating expectations by 3 cents. United stock struggled during the first half of the day and was trading at $67.92 as of approximately 12:45 Eastern time, down 4%.