Delta Air Lines Inc. Sees Improved Performance, but Fuel Cost Projections Rise

Today, Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL  ) announced its March performance, and the company saw its consolidated passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) increase by just 1% relative to March of 2013.

However, the company noted that part of the reason for the slower growth in revenue -- growth stood at 4% in February -- was the timing of the Easter holiday, which this year falls in April, after being in March last year. As a result, it anticipates the combined revenue of March and April to represent an increase of 3% to 4%.

Delta continued to see strong performance in its total monthly traffic, which stood at 17.1 billion revenue passenger miles, an increase of 3.9% over March of 2013. Through the first three months of the year, its revenue passenger miles -- which measure number of miles traveled by all paying passengers -- are up 3.5%.

In addition, the load factor -- which measures the utilization of the available seats at Delta -- stood at 82.7% in the first quarter of 2014, 1.5 percentage points ahead of the 81.2% seen in 2013.

March also represented a month where it continued to improve in on-time performance, as 84.3% of its flights came in on time. This was the second month in a row where this metric increased significantly, as that number stood at just 70.2% in January, and 77.5% in February. 

Delta had been projecting its adjusted fuel price per gallon to stand between $2.99 and $3.04 in previous press releases, but its preliminary results announced today raised its expectation to stand between $3.02 and $3.07. However, this still remains well below the $3.23 to $3.28 range the company saw in the first quarter of 2013.

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