Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) reported third-quarter profit that topped analysts' expectations, and it forecast that passenger unit revenue would decline in the fourth quarter year-over-year, although less than it has dropped in the prior two quarters.
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The Atlanta-based airline earned $1.32 billion in the third quarter. On an adjusted basis, profit rose 36 percent to $1.38 billion, or $1.74 per diluted share, compared with the average analyst estimate of $1.71, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Delta's shares rose 1.6 percent after the news in pre-market trade.
The airline forecast that passenger unit revenue would fall between 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter.
The drop follows a months-long decline in unit revenues at Delta and rivals American Airlines Group and United Continental Holdings, as a strong U.S. dollar has hurt travel demand abroad and smaller surcharges in international markets have decreased the value of sales.
Delta reported a 4.9 percent drop in the third quarter for passenger unit revenue, which measures sales relative to the capacity and distance of flights. In the second quarter, passenger unit revenue declined 4.6 percent.
"By keeping our system capacity flat for the December quarter, we are taking action to drive improvement in our unit revenues," Delta's President Ed Bastian said in a news release, in reference to efforts to keep the supply of plane seats in line with demand, helping unit revenue.
The carrier said its operating profit margin for the quarter was 21 percent. It forecast operating margin of 16 percent to 18 percent for the fourth quarter.
It also forecast that unit costs excluding fuel and other expenses would rise about 2 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the prior year.
(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in New York Editing by W Simon)