Delta Air Lines returns first quarterly profit since start of Covid crisis

Delta Air Lines returned to the black over the summer in a “milestone” in the US carrier’s recovery

Adjusted pre-tax income of $216 million was still 90% down from the $1.9 billion achieved in the equivalent pre-pandemic period in 2019.

However, returning the airline to profitability was heralded as a “great achievement” when business travel and international trips remained stagnant.

Transatlantic travel was reported to have improved the most in the three months to September, while US domestic and Latin America led the overall recovery.

North Atlantic revenues were 35% restored over the same third quarter in 2019, up 20 points on the three months to June driven by border reopenings.

Operating revenue improved by 30% over the previous quarter to $8.3 billion.

The operating revenue was 66% restored compared to the same period in 2019, in line with the company’s initial revenue guidance even as case counts from the Covid-19 variant impacted demand in August and early September.

Total passenger revenue was 63% recovered compared to the same  three months in 2019 on capacity that was 71% restored.

Corporate volumes improved in July but paused at approximately 40% recovered for the quarter as corporations delayed the reopening of offices due to the Covid-19 variant, according to the airline.

However, the airline reported increased premium cabin load factors despite business travel being less than 50% recovered.

Delta saw improving US business travel at the end of September and continuing in to this month with small and medium-sized enterprises leading the recovery.

President Glen Hauenstein said: “Generating a profit for the quarter even with a majority of our corporate and international customers still to return is a great achievement.”

Delta chief executive Ed Bastian added: “Our September quarter marked an important milestone in our recovery, with our first quarterly profit since the start of the pandemic.

“Our revenues reached two-thirds of 2019 levels thanks to the industry-leading operational performance our people delivered through a busy summer, once again showing why they are the best in the business.”

However, he cautioned: “While demand continues to improve, the recent rise in fuel prices will pressure our ability to remain profitable for the December quarter.

“As the recovery progresses, I am confident in our path to sustained profitability as we continue to provide best-in-class service to our customers, strengthen preference for our brand, while creating a simpler, more efficient airline.”

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