Delta (DAL) earnings Q4 2019

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A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300 landing in Amsterdam.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines’ fourth quarter profits topped Wall Street’s expectations, as lower fuel prices and strong travel — particularly for high-priced premium tickets — demanded lifted the Atlanta-based carrier’s results.

Before the market opened on Tuesday, Delta reported per-share adjusted earnings of $1.70, compared with analysts’ expectations of $1.40 a share and a more than 30% increase from a year earlier.

Delta doesn’t have the beleaguered Boeing 737 Max in its fleet, the plane that has been grounded since March after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. Competitors American, Southwest and United do have the Max in their fleets and have had to scale back growth planes without the fuel-efficient jets cleared by regulators to return to service.

The crashed led to a ballooning crisis at Boeing that cost the previous CEO his job and drew ire from lawmakers over internal emails that showed Boeing employees gloating about bullying regulators into approving less-rigorous training than some had requested. Boeing’s new CEO, General Electric aviation and Blackstone Group veteran Dave Calhoun, started Monday.

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian told CNBC’s Phil LeBeau on Tuesday that the issues don’t effect the carrier, which operates older Boeing 737 jets, directly.

“I think it’s been widely reported that there’s a culture issue at Boeing for some time now,” Bastian said. “Dave will clean it up.”

Delta shares were up close to 2% in premarket trading after it reported results.

Delta reported net income of $1.1 billion, up 8% from the fourth quarter of 2018. Revenues in the three months ended Dec. 31 rose 6% from a year earlier to $11.44 billion, slightly above analysts’ estimates.

Delta benefited from cheaper fuel and the unwinding of its minority stake in Brazilian carrier Gol, the result of Delta’s new stake in Gol’s larger South American competitor Latam.

Here’s how Delta did in the fourth quarter of 2019 compared with what Wall Street expected:

  • Adjusted earnings per share: $1.70 versus $1.40 expected.
  • Revenue: $11.44 billion versus $11.35 billion expected.

Delta said it expects unit revenues to be flat to up 2% in the first quarter of 2020, and flat margins. The airline reiterated its 2020 guidance of earnings per share of $6.75 to $7.75.

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