Delta Airlines reported a quarterly profit from $735 million on Wednesday, as robust demand during the start of the busy summer travel season helped the airline overcome rising costs, with little sign of a short-term slowdown.
The airline said it expected some strength to remain in the fall, forecasting July-September revenues to surpass revenue collected over the same period in 2019, even with a 15 to 17 percent drop in capacity.
“With continued strong bookings, we expect quarterly sales to increase 1 to 5 percent in September compared to 2019,” Delta’s president Glen Hauenstein said in a statement.
The strength of the travel recovery has helped airlines overcome rapidly rising costs and a long pandemic slump, but it has also challenged the industry, which has struggled to contain operational disruptions. For example, Delta canceled about 3 percent of its flights last month, second only to American Airlines, which canceled 5 percent, according to FlightAware, a flight-tracking website.
Investments in improving operations and limited capacity contributed to a 22 percent increase in non-fuel costs for Delta in the quarter ended June, compared to the same period in 2019, the airline said. Jet fuel prices, which hit record highs in the spring, also appear to be declining slightly.
The rebound remains patchy. Revenue from flights within the United States increased about 3 percent compared to the same three months in 2019, while revenue from international flights was still down about 19 percent, Delta said. Still, transatlantic and Latin American routes delivered more revenue in June than in the same month in 2019, while flights across the Pacific lagged.
Business travel is lagging even further: Domestic business travel sales fell about 20 percent in the quarter compared to the same period in 2019 and international business travel sales fell about 35 percent.
Despite that disparity, Delta reported total operating revenue of $13.8 billion in the second quarter. On an adjusted basis, quarterly sales were nearly the same as in the same period in 2019, the airline said. And Delta’s commitment to premium seats and services appears to be paying off, with revenues for those offerings recovering faster than main cabin revenues.
Delta said its operating margin, a measure of profitability, was 11 percent in the second quarter, up from 17 percent in the same period in 2019. For the third quarter of 2022, Delta expects to report an operating margin of 11 to 13 percent. †
American Airlines offered a preview of its own quarterly results on Tuesday and said it expected it would have amassed nearly $13.4 billion in revenue in the second quarter of this year, up about 12 percent from the same quarter in 2019. But costs rose, too. American said it expected to spend about $4 a gallon on jet fuel, slightly more than it forecast a month ago. United Airlines and American will report financial results next week. Southwest Airlines will report later this month.