Superstorm Sandy and special charges almost wiped out Delta Air Lines’ 2012 fourth quarter profits.

The storm cost the airline $100 million in lost profits while other charges of $231 million left Virgin Atlantic’s new US shareholder with a profit of just $7 million for the three months to December.

Delta’s net profit for the full year improved by $362 million over 2011 to $1.6 billion, excluding special items.

Chief executive Richard Anderson said: “Our December quarter profit caps off a successful 2012 for Delta with strong financial results, industry-leading operational performance, and across-the-board improvements in customer satisfaction.

“I want to thank our employees and I look forward to recognising them next month with $372 million of profit sharing for 2012.

“We enter 2013 as a stronger airline, with initiatives in place to build on our 2012 success.

“In the year ahead, we will advance our position around the world and continue to build a better airline for our shareholders, customers and employees.”

Chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said: “Delta’s results this quarter are remarkable in light of the $100 million negative impact Superstorm Sandy had on our airline and refinery operations.

“We have generated $4 billion in free cash flow over the past three years, and we expect to build on that momentum in 2013 with the additional benefits of further debt reduction and $1 billion of structural cost initiatives.”