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

Key Points
  • Delta 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.
  • On an unadjusted basis, the company's profit jumped 31 percent to $730 million.
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300 landing in Amsterdam.
Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines announced Wednesday that it generated record revenue in the first quarter and that its profit and sales for the period beat Wall Street's expectations.

"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."

Delta's stock was up 1.6% midday Wednesday.

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

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

On an unadjusted basis, the company's profit surged 31 percent to $730 million, or $1.09 per share, up from $557 million or 79 cents a share a year earlier.

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 during peak travel season would lower fares and reduce revenue.

It forecast an even stronger second quarter, telling investors that 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 boost 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 carrier said it expects this figure to rise between 1.5% and 3.5% in the second quarter of this year.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian talks first quarter earnings, Boeing 737 Max grounding

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 the prolonged grounding of Boeing's 737 Max jets after 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, which has 737 Max jets in its fleet, 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 Wednesday morning on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "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 were holding a call with analysts at 10 a.m. ET.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct who is holding a call with analysts Wednesday. It's Delta executives.

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JetBlue appears to be gearing up to announce service across the Atlantic

Key Points
  • JetBlue has been mulling service across the Atlantic for about three years.
  • The low-cost airline has said its premium Mint class could "disrupt" business travel from the U.S. to Europe.
  • JetBlue has scheduled an "all-hands" meeting in New York on Wednesday.