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Delta Earnings Beat Estimate, But Stock Falls

Delta Air Lines Inc forecast current-quarter profit below expectations on higher operating costs even as fourth-quarter profit topped Wall Street estimates on the back of robust travel demand.

Delta scheduled airliner
Delta scheduled airliner

The company expected March quarter revenue would be 14%-17% higher than in 2019 on the capacity that is 1% lower. It expects earnings of 15 cents to 40 cents a share, below a profit of 55 cents a share, expected by analysts in a Refinitiv survey.

Strong Travel Demand Keeps Delta Profitable

U.S. carriers are enjoying the strongest travel demand since the start of the pandemic, boosted by the reopening of closed borders, a strong U.S. dollar, and rising corporate travel demand. A worsening economic outlook and rising financial fragility of U.S. households have sparked concerns about consumer spending, but travel demand remains strong and exceeds the pace of flight capacity growth, keeping ticket prices high.

Delta CEO Bullish on Airline Industry in 2023

"As we move into 2023, the industry backdrop for air travel remains favorable and Delta is well positioned to deliver significant earnings and free cash flow growth," Chief Executive Ed Bastian said in a statement. The carrier has offered a 34% pay hike to its pilots in a new contract, which is expected to become a new "benchmark" for the industry.