Delta beats Wall Street forecasts with record revenue and big jump in first-quarter profit

Investors were expecting a strong quarter from Delta, especially after it raised its earnings and revenue guidance last week. Read more...

Delta Air Lines generated record revenue and posted first-quarter earnings Wednesday that beat Wall Street’s expectations for both profit and revenue.

“Demand for Delta’s product has never been stronger,” President Glen Hauenstein said in a statement announcing the earnings. “With our customer-focused commercial initiatives delivering strong customer loyalty and top-line momentum, we now expect full-year revenue growth of five to seven percent, an increase from our prior guidance.”

Its shares rose by almost 3 percent in premarket trading.

The Atlanta-based carrier earned 96 cents a share, on an adjusted basis, compared with an average of 90 cents expected by analysts polled by Refinitiv.

It generated $10.47 billion in revenue, compared with $10.42 billion forecast by analysts. Its revenue jumped 5.1 percent, up from $9.97 billion during the first three months last year.

On an unadjusted basis, the company’s profits jumped 31 percent to $730 million, or $1.09 per share, up from $557 million or 79 cents a share during the same time period last year.

Investors were expecting a strong quarter from Delta, especially after it raised its earnings and revenue guidance last week, citing healthy demand that helped drive record performance.

Delta said it would keep capacity consistent into the summer months, which will alleviate investor concerns that scheduling too many flights in peak travel season would lower fares and reduce revenue.

It forecast an even stronger second quarter, telling investors its earnings per share will fall between $2.05 and $2.35 and total operating revenue will rise by 6% to 8% over the same quarter last year. It expects to up its flight capacity by 4% to 4.5%, year-over-year.

Delta’s revenue per available seat mile, a key industry metric of how much airlines are bringing in for each seat they fly a mile, rose 2.4% in the first three months of 2019, compared with the year-earlier period. The Atlanta-based carrier said it expects this figure to rise between 1.5% and 3.5% in the second-quarter of this year.

Delta also said its contract renewal with American Express helped drive revenue in the first quarter. The partnership, which focuses on the SkyMiles credit cards, will run through 2029.

The airline has also escaped the fallout from Boeing’s 737 Max prolonged grounding following two fatal crashes over five months that killed a total of 346 people. Wall Street analysts recently downgraded Boeing and Southwest Airlines, and American Airlines cut its revenue guidance for the first quarter and canceled 1,200 flights. Southwest also cut its guidance after canceling 10,000 flights over bad weather, unexpected maintenance and Max groundings.

“Our hearts go out to all who are impacted,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday morning. “This is not something we want to compete around. I’m confident Boeing will get to the right answer with respect to the fix and hope they get the product back in the sky as soon as possible.”

Delta executives are holding a call with analysts at 10 a.m. ET.

CORRECTION: This story was corrected to update who is holding a call with analysts Wednesday. It’s Delta executives.

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