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Delta says key revenue measure up in October, but storm hurt

Nov 2 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines said on Friday that a key revenue measure improved in October, helped by corporate travel and cancellations in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

The airline, which canceled more than 3,500 flights last month because of the storm, said Sandy had hurt October revenue by $45 million and likely shaved about $20 million from the carrier's October profit. It estimated that the storm's effect on November revenue and profit would be less than October.

Unit revenue, a measure of pricing power and how full planes are, rose 5.5 percent in October from a year earlier. The cancellations caused a 2 percent reduction in Delta's systemwide capacity in October from a year ago.

Delta said the improvement in unit revenue, also known as passenger revenue per available seat mile, was about one percentage point higher than it would have been without the impact of the hurricane. Cancellations tend to help unit revenue as more travelers are put on remaining flights. Delta's percentage of seats filled systemwide in October was 84.6 percent, up from 82.8 percent a year earlier.

Delta said that it was operating close to a full schedule at New York's John F. Kennedy airport and Newark Liberty in New Jersey as its New York operations were built up after the storm, which forced airport closures.

The airline, which is based in Atlanta, said it expected a full schedule on Friday at LaGuardia, where it offers roughly 260 flights a day.

U.S. airlines canceled nearly 20,000 flights this week because of the storm.

Shares of Delta were off about 1 percent at $9.61 in morning trading.