The company made $ 194 million in the quarter, adjusted for special items. That’s less than $ 1.5 billion it made in the quarter of 2019, the year before the pandemic uprooted air travel around the globe.
“Our September quarter was an important milestone in our recovery,” said CEO Ed Bastian, but cautioned that the gains could be short-lived.
After labor costs, fuel is the second largest cost to an airline. Delta paid an average of $ 1.94 a gallon for fuel in the third quarter – 55% more than a year ago, but about the same price as it was two years ago. However, the company cautioned against paying an average of between $ 2.25 and $ 2.40 per gallon for the current quarter.
The company reported net income for the second quarter, but this was mainly driven by a final grant from government support and other airlines during the quarter.
Delta and other US carriers had a strong summer travel season as the backlog of vacation travel filled the planes. Delta occupied 80% of its available spots during the quarter, just below the 88% it reported in the same period of 2019.
However, a major contributor to the overcrowded airplane seats is that Delta is still well below the number of flights it flew two years ago. The airline’s total capacity decreased 28% in the quarter from the same time in 2019, with much of the reduction coming from international routes. Domestic capacity decreased by 16%.
Still, Delta’s 2021 schedule is comparatively much closer to its pre-pandemic schedule than it was during 2020, when capacity was only half what it was before the crisis.
The airline’s total revenue for the quarter decreased 27% from 2019 to $ 9.2 billion. The airline flew less than half of its pre-pandemic flight schedule on transatlantic and transpacific routes, although international flights to and from Latin America were within 7% of pre-pandemic levels.