Delta Air Lines December Passenger Revenue Jumps 10%, Partly Thanks to Thanksgiving Travel

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) reported its financial and operating performance for December today, and the company saw strong year-over-year results. The airline watched its passenger unit revenue rise by 10% on a relative basis, and the company attributed this to both stronger consumer demand as well as the way Thanksgiving fell on the calendar this year, which pushed some of the travel tied to that holiday into December.

In November, Delta disclosed that its passenger unit revenue fell by 3% relative to November of 2012, but again this was the result of the timing of Thanksgiving. The November press release noted the fall in revenue was "driven by the calendar placement of the Thanksgiving holiday, which added an extra week of off-peak travel in the month and shifted Thanksgiving return traffic into December." 

Delta has also watched its fuel prices continue to decline, and this December the company projected its average fuel price would be between $3.00 and $3.05 per gallon. This represents a nearly 8% drop in fuel prices relative to December of last year, when prices stood at $3.25 per gallon. In addition, prices are marginally lower than November's levels, when Delta guided for prices between $3.03 and $3.08.

Lastly, Delta did see a decline in its two operating performance metrics on both a year-over-year, and month-over-month basis as shown in the chart below:

Metric

December 2012

November 2013

December 2013

Mainline completion factor

99.7%

99.9%

99.6%

On-time performance

85.4%

88.3%

79.5%

Delta did not disclose in its press release the reason for the significant decline in on-time performance (its flights that arrived on time), however there were a number of winter storms that could have been a factor.

Delta mostly kept a lid on growth last year. According to its traffic report released today, traffic and flying capacity both rose by 1%  for the full year. Domestic traffic was flat, while international traffic grew 2.6%. Occupancy on jets flown by Delta and feeder airlines averaged 83.8% for 2013, the same as for 2012.

-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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