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United Airlines CEO says he doesn’t see evidence of a recession in travel data: ‘The word wouldn’t be in my vocabulary’

Valerie Plesch—Bloomberg/Getty Images

It’s shaping up to be a strange economic downturn for some corporate leaders. Strong consumer spending, a better-than-expected jobs report and cooling inflation are leading some CEOs to see good economic news even amid fears of a recession.

“The word ‘recession’ wouldn’t be in my vocabulary, just looking at our data,” [hotlink]United Airlines[/hotlink] CEO Scott [hotlink]Kirby[/hotlink] said on CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday.

The airline still foresees a “mild recession induced by the Fed,” yet Kirby said the airline’s revenues are still going up. “We’re still setting records,” he said.

In October, United Airlines reported third-quarter revenue of $12.9 billion, 66% higher year-on-year, and 13.2% higher than the same quarter in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not all good news for the airline.

Kirby said on Tuesday that business travel had “plateaued,” though characterized it as a “pre-recessionary kind of behavior” rather than a new trend sparked by current economic conditions.

And the airline chief is optimistic that other changes to the way people live and work will help the bottom-line.

“Hybrid work makes every weekend a holiday,” Kirby said on Tuesday. “What we see is that people that always had plenty of disposable income to travel now have the freedom [to travel] from a time perspective."

Consumer spending

Kirby is not the only CEO who isn’t seeing a catastrophic downturn in economic data.

[hotlink]Bank of America[/hotlink] CEO Brian Moynihan said a good jobs report helped confirm his view that the U.S. would only experience a mild downturn next year.

Citing the 263,000 jobs added in November, Moynihan asked: “How could you have an unemployment-less recession?”

Banks are now pushing their forecasts for when a U.S. recession might hit, if one happens at all.

In September, Bank of America pushed its prediction of a mild recession from end-2022 to the first half of next year, citing resilient consumer spending. Last month, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley both said that the U.S. might not have a recession at all.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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