Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian has declared 2019 the best in the airline’s history after a pre-tax income of $US6.2 billion and a 30 percent increase in adjusted earnings per share.
The airline carried a record of 204 million passengers, up 6 percent compared to 2018, with a record load factor of 86.3 percent.
The good result will mean a record $US1.6 billion profit sharing for Delta’s 90,000 employees.
Stronger revenue and lower fuel costs meant the airline’s fourth-quarter adjusted EPS of $US1.70 was 31 percent ahead of the same period last year and well ahead of guidance of $US1.20 to $US1.50 per share.
“2019 was a truly outstanding year on all fronts – the best in Delta’s history operationally, financially and for our customers,’’ Bastian said.
“Our people, and their commitment to bringing best-in-class travel experiences to our 200 million customers, are the foundation for our success.”
Bastian said Delta was entering 2020 in an environment where demand for travel was healthy and the airline’s brand preference was growing.
He said this positioned Delta to deliver another year of strong results, including earnings per share of $US6.75 to $US7.75.
Customer improvements saw Delta take delivery of 88 new aircraft during the year, debut an impressive international Main Cabin experience and update its FlyDelta App with functions such as automatic international check-in and integrated security wait times..
Operational highlights for the year included 281 days of zero mainline cancellations, which was up 12 percent on 2018, and 165 days of zero system cancellations, up 15 percent.
Fleet renewal and other activities saw fuel efficiency for the year improved by 2 percent.
The year also saw Delta strengthen global partnerships, including a 20 percent investment in LATAM Airlines Group, an equity investment in Korean Air major shareholder Hanjin-KAL and anti-trust approval for an expanded joint venture with Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic.
New services included Amsterdam-Tampa, Boston-Edinburgh, Boston-Lisbon, Minneapolis-Mexico City, Minneapolis-Seoul, New York JFK-Bogota, New York JFK-Mumbai and Seattle-Osaka.
Delta’s full-year operating revenue grew 7.5 percent to almost $UAS47 million with premium product ticket revenue up 9 percent.
Domestic revenue in the final quarter grew 7.7 percent with premium revenue up 11 percent and a 6 percent rise in corporate revenue.
There was also a substantial jump in December quarter passenger revenue from Latin markets and a modest 0.8 percent increase across the Atlantic.
The exception was Pacific revenue, which fell 0.5 percent.
Delta president Glen Hauenstein attributed the revenue gains and increased passenger numbers to the airline’s “industry-leading operational performance and unmatched service”.
“Demand trends remain healthy and we expect momentum to continue in 2020, with revenue growth of 5 percent to 7 percent in the March quarter,’’ he said.
Total costs for the year rose by 3.9 percent but were offset by a $US501m reduction in fuel expenses.