Delta reports first profit since 2019 thanks to federal aid, improving revenue as travelers return

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A Delta Air Lines Boeing 737 approaching LAX for landing.
Angel Di Bilio | iStock Editorial | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines on Wednesday reported second-quarter revenue that topped Wall Street’s estimates and said both leisure and business travel bookings rose sharply after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns.

The Atlanta-based airline posted a profit of $652 million, snapping a five-quarter streak of losses, thanks to federal coronavirus aid that offset some of its costs.

Delta shares were up 1.4% in premarket trading after it released results.

While still hamstrung by weak international air travel, revenue will continue to improve compared with recent months, Delta said. For the third quarter, Delta said it expects revenue will be down 30% to 35% over 2019, when it brought in $12.56 billion before the pandemic.

Delta and some other airlines often compare their results to 2019 before the pandemic since the virus had created such dramatic shifts in demand last year

Here’s how Delta performed in the second quarter compared with what Wall Street expected, based on average estimates compiled by Refinitiv:

  • Adjusted results per share: a loss of $1.07 versus an expected loss of $1.38 a share
  • Total revenue: $7.13 billion versus expected $6.22 billion in revenue

Revenue for the three months ended June 30 came in at $7.13 billion, down 43% from the $12.54 billion it generated during the same period in 2019 but more than the $6.22 billion analysts expected.

“Looking forward, we are harnessing the power of our differentiated brand and resilient competitive advantages to drive towards sustainable profitability in the second half of 2021 and enable long-term value creation,” CEO Ed Bastian said in an earnings release.

Delta had $17.8 billion in liquidity at the end of the quarter and total debt and lease obligations of $29.1 billion.

Delta said its third-quarter capacity will be down 28% to 30%. Its capacity was down 32% in the second quarter, though the airline was blocking middle seats until May 1.

Delta late Monday announced it was adding used aircraft to grow its fleet: leasing seven Airbus A350 wide-body planes and buying 29 Boeing 737-900ERs. Its said its 2021 gross capital expenditures would total around $3.2 billion.

Adjusting for one-time items including $1.5 billion in federal payroll aid, Delta had an adjusted loss of $881 million or $1.07 per share, better than the $1.38 per-share adjusted loss analysts expected.

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