MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Higher fares and growing traffic helped Delta Air Lines Inc. post a bigger-than-expected profit on Tuesday.
Delta's yield — a key measure of what each passenger pays to fly one mile — rose 4 percent for the quarter. Airlines tried about a dozen fare increases last year. While most failed after competitors didn't match them, airlines still boosted yields by an average 2 percent last year, according to the Airlines for America trade group.
Delta President Ed Bastian said demand for air travel is "solid," and Delta expects to see "significant margin expansion" in the current quarter.
Bastian also said the airline industry is showing restraint in how much flying it adds. The view on Wall Street has been that reining in growth will give airlines more power to raise fares. Delta expanded flying just 1 percent last year. It said it expects to grow 2 percent to 3 percent in the upcoming quarter.
Delta said it expects its new joint venture with Virgin Atlantic to be profitable this year. CEO Richard Anderson said bankers in New York are especially interested in the flights, because Delta and Virgin America together have a fuller schedule between New York and London.
Not counting a non-cash adjustment for taxes, Delta earned $558 million, or 65 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31. Revenue rose 5.5 percent to $9.08 billion. Both figures were better than Wall Street analysts expected, not counting one-time items.
Including a one-time, $8 billion accounting benefit related to taxes, Delta's net income ballooned to $8.48 billion, or $9.89 per share.