Rising fuel prices drive down profits at Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines has reported adjusted pre-tax income of $ 5.1 billion for financial 2018, a $ 137 million decrease relative to 2017 as the company overcame approximately 90 per cent of the $ 2 billion increase in fuel expenses. 

Full year adjusted earnings per share were $ 5.65, up 19 per cent compared to the prior year as the company recognised benefits from tax reform and a four per cent lower share count.

“Last year was a successful year for Delta with record operational reliability, increasing customer satisfaction, and solid financial results in the face of higher fuel costs,” said Ed Bastian, Delta chief executive officer.

“As we move into 2019, we expect to drive double-digit earnings growth through higher revenues, maintaining a cost trajectory below inflation, and the modest benefit from lower fuel costs. 

“Margin expansion is a business imperative and we remain confident in our full-year earnings guidance of $ 6 to $ 7 per share.”

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For the full year, adjusted operating revenue grew to nearly $ 44 billion, up eight per cent versus prior year on an increasingly diverse revenue base, with 52 per cent of revenues from premium products and non-ticket sources. 

Premium product ticket revenues increased 14 per cent along with double-digit percentage increases from cargo, loyalty, and maintenance, repair and overhaul revenue.

“Delta’s strong brand momentum was evident across the business with positive unit revenue growth in all geographic entities for the full year, a record revenue premium to the industry, and double-digit revenue growth from premium products and non-ticket sources,” said Glen Hauenstein, Delta president. 

“Our March quarter adjusted unit revenue growth is expected to be flat to up two percent including impacts from the timing of Easter, increasing currency headwinds, and the ongoing government shutdown.”

Adjusted pre-tax income for the December quarter 2018 was $ 1.2 billion driven by over $ 700 million of revenue growth, allowing the company to fully recapture the $ 508 million increase in adjusted fuel expense and produce an 11 per cent adjusted pre-tax margin. 

Adjusted earnings per share increased by 42 per cent year over year to $ 1.30.

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