Delta Air Lines third-quarter profit tops estimates

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A Delta Airlines Embraer 175, with Tail Number N604CZ, lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, April 14, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Delta Air Lines Inc on Thursday reported a third-quarter profit that topped expectations and said moves to curb its growth in flight capacity will help halt the decline of a closely watched revenue measure.

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The Atlanta-based airline said its profit fell about 4 percent to $1.3 billion in the quarter. On an adjusted basis, Delta earned $1.70 per share, compared with analysts' average estimate of $1.65 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Delta, the No. 2 U.S. airline by passenger traffic, said it will continue to taper its capacity growth next year to help prop up prices, which have fallen due to a glut of seats for sale.

"We will be taking a cautious approach to 2017 by keeping our capacity in line with the December quarter's 1 percent growth level," Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said. Capacity measures how many seats an airline flies and how far it flies them.

Delta forecast that passenger unit revenue, which compares sales to capacity, will fall between 3 percent and 5 percent in the fourth quarter after declining 6.8 percent in the third quarter.

Revenue totaled $10.48 billion, falling short of the analyst average estimate of $10.55 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)