United Airlines will exit three years of bankruptcy today with 35 new international routes, a fleet that's about a fifth smaller, and one-third fewer workers.

The changes are designed to revive profits and make UAL Corp.'s United more competitive with lower-cost rivals even as jet-fuel prices have more than doubled since the company sought Chapter 11 protection in December 2002.

"The restructuring puts us in a position to be able to compete with our peers, whatever the oil price is going to be,'' Chief Executive Officer Glenn Tilton said in an interview yesterday. "We're seeing a tighter correlation now between fares, revenue and oil prices than we did a year ago.''

United expects fuel to average $1.81 a gallon this year. Analysts at Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor's and Goldman, Sachs & Co. have said it's unlikely the airline will make a profit this year with jet-fuel costs at that level.

"The surge in fuel costs is offsetting a lot of the progress that's been made,'' said Bill Warlick, a Chicago-based analyst with Fitch.

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