Delta Air Lines (DAL - Free Report) , which kick-started the fourth-quarter 2019 earnings season for the airline space, reported earnings per share (excluding 1 cent from non-recurring items) of $1.70 per share, which surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 30 cents. The bottom line also improved 30.8% on a year-over- year basis, mainly owing to low fuel costs. Delta’s results were also aided by the sale of its stake in GOL Linhas (GOL - Free Report) .
Operating revenues in the quarter came in at $11,439 million, edging past the Zacks Consensus Estimate. However, the top line increased 6.5% on a year-over-year basis, backed by upbeat air-travel demand from holiday travelers.
During the reported quarter, passenger revenues, which accounted for 89.6% of the top line, improved 6% mainly owing to strong demand for air travel. Meanwhile, cargo revenues declined 13%. Other revenues increased 14%. The average fuel price (adjusted) in the fourth quarter was $1.99 per gallon, down 17.7% on a year-over-year basis.
Revenue passenger miles (a measure of air traffic) increased 5.2% to 56 billion. Capacity (measured in available seat miles) expanded 4.7% to 65.46 billion. Load factor (percentage of seats filled by passengers) improved 40 basis points to 85.6%, as traffic growth outpaced capacity expansion. Passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) increased 1.4% year over year to 15.65 cents. Passenger mile yield improved 0.9% to 18.29 cents. On an adjusted basis, total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) in the fourth quarter increased 2.4% year over year to 17.47 cents.
Total operating expenses, including special items, climbed 4% year over year to $10,040 million. Operating cost per available seat mile (non-fuel or CASM- Ex) increased 4.4% to 11.21 cents, driven by increased investments and a mark-up of benefit-related balance-sheet obligations.