Delta reports March profit despite $1.2bn quarterly loss

Delta Air Lines reported a return to profit in March despite recording a pre-tax loss of $1.2 billion in the first quarter of this year.

US carrier Delta reported an operating loss of $783 million for the three months to March and a net loss of $940 million. The carrier’s pre-tax loss contrasted with a profit of $946 million in the first quarter of 2019.

However, Delta chief executive Ed Bastian hailed “a strong rebound in demand as Omicron faded” during the quarter.

Bastian noted: “We returned to profitability in the month of March [and] we are successfully recapturing higher fuel prices.”

The strong US domestic recovery led Delta to report its domestic passenger revenue rose to 83% of the 2019 level in the quarter, with international passenger revenue at 54%.

In a results statement, Delta noted: “Consumer demand accelerated through the quarter . . . as omicron faded, offices reopened and travel restrictions were lifted.”

Business travel continued to lag the return of leisure travel but increased through the quarter.

Delta reported US domestic corporate travel sales were 50% recovered on 2019 levels over the three months and 70% recovered in March. Corporate sales on international flights in the quarter were 35% of the 2019 level, but 50% in March.

The carrier noted the recovery in premium cabins continued to outpace economy, with domestic premium revenue almost “100% restored” to 2019 levels for the month of March.

The airline operated 83% of the capacity it flew in 2019 in the first quarter and planned to operate 84% in the current quarter.

Chief financial officer Dan Janki identified “reducing debt” as now Delta’s “financial priority”. The carrier, which owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, reported total debt of $25.6 billion and liquidity of $12.8 billion at the end of March.

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