Delta Air Lines broke a streak of five straight money-losing quarters, benefiting from federal aid and the recovery in demand as the economy reopens.
For the second quarter, Delta posted a profit of $652 million. Excluding the $1.5 billion in federal aid and other one-time items, it lost $1.07 per share, beating analysts’ estimates of a $1.38 per share loss.
Revenue fell 43% to $7.13 billion but topped estimates of $6.22 billion.
“We achieved significant milestones in the quarter including a solid pre-tax profit in the month of June,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a news release. “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.”
Bastian told Yahoo Finance that Delta would make a profit “in the mid to mid-single digits” in the third quarter. “Hopefully it gets better than that. But I feel pretty comfortable in that range,” he said.
According to The New York Times, Delta’s results are “the latest sign that the airline recovery is well underway” after the industry took a battering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Domestic leisure travel is fully recovered to 2019 levels, and there are encouraging signs of improvement in business and international travel,” Bastian noted.
Delta’s average daily net cash sales — tickets purchased minus refunds — doubled over the first quarter and were 20% higher than its initial forecast while the number of business travelers fell 60% in June, compared with 80% in March, as offices reopened during the quarter.
The number of people flying for vacation or to visit friends and family within the U.S. has recovered to pre-pandemic levels but Delta’s revenue from domestic travel was down 45% from 2019 because of the drop-off in business travel.
Bastian predicted revenue in the third quarter will hit 70% of what it had been in 2019, boosted by a return of business travelers. “Over 90% of our corporations tell us that they’re going to be meaningfully increasing their corporate travel in the third quarter,” he said.