Delta sees unit revenue rise as quarterly profit beats

Jan 11 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc reported better-than-expected profit for the fourth quarter on Thursday after more people flew during the holiday season, offsetting higher costs.

The No. 2 U.S. carrier also forecast total unit revenue, a closely watched performance metric, to increase 2.5-4.5 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

Delta's shares rose 3.7 percent to $57.90 in premarket trading.

"We enter 2018 with significant momentum and every entity delivering positive passenger unit revenue for the first time in five years, driven by a robust demand environment and improving business fares," said Delta's President Glen Hauenstein.

The rosy outlook from the airline, the first major U.S. carrier to report fourth-quarter earnings, comes a day after United Airlines and American Airlines also raised their forecasts for unit revenue.

Delta's net income dipped to $572 million, or 80 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, from $622 million, or 84 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Delta earned 96 cents per share.

Total operating revenue rose 8.3 percent to $10.25 billion from $9.46 billion.

Analysts on average had expected quarterly profit of 88 cents per share, and revenue of $10.13 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Alana Wise in New York and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby and Arun Koyyur)