Delta’s first quarter operating performance improves, but not enough

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Significantly improved revenue and load factor performamce were not enough to for Delta Air Lines to post a net profit excluding special items in the first quarter.

The SkyTeam Alliance carrier instead posted a $39 million net loss excluding special items in the first quarter, an improvement over a $320 million loss reported in the same period a year ago.

If fuel hedge gains and restructuring charges are included, Delta posted a $124 million net profit.

Delta's operating revenues were not responsible for the bottom line result. Total operating revenues grew 9% to $8.4 billion, even as capacity shrank by 3% and load factor improved 1.3 percentage points to 79.7%.

But the year over year cost of yet fuel increased 8.5% to $3.05 per gallon, Delta says, increasing overall operating expenses to $8.03 billion. Aircraft maintenance costs also jumped 16% during the quarter to $561 million.

The company's cost per available seat mile as a result grew from $13.94 in the same period a year ago to $14.76. Excluding fuel costs, CASM rose from $8.96 to $9.28.

Delta owned $5.7 billion in unrestricted liquidity at the end of the first quarter, having reduced adjusted net debt to $12.2 billion.