United Airlines reported a profit of $3 billion for 2019, up from $2.1 billion in 2018, leading chief executive Oscar Munoz to hail “a great year”.

US carrier United made $3.9 billion before tax in the year on a turnover of $43 billion.

Munoz said: “We expect our full-year 2019 pre-tax margin growth to be the highest among our largest competitors. I could not be prouder of what we’ve accomplished.”

The carrier reported it spent $1.6 billion on share repurchases in 2019. It attributed $1.65 billion of costs to distribution, up 6% year on year.

US rival Delta Air Lines declared a record annual profit of almost $4.8 billion after tax last week.

Delta, joint owner of Virgin Atlantic, reported a record $1.6 billion in profits would be shared between the airline’s 90,000 employees. The carrier returned $3 billion to shareholders over the course of last year.

Ed Bastian, Delta chief executive, described 2019 as “the best year in Delta’s history operationally, financially and for our customers”.