• September quarter 2019 GAAP pre-tax income of $1.9 billion, net income of $1.5 billion and earnings per diluted share of $2.31 on record total revenue of $12.6 billion.
  • September quarter 2019 adjusted pre-tax income of $2.0 billion, adjusted net income of $1.5 billion and adjusted earnings per diluted share of $2.32, a 29 percent increase year over year.
  • Delta returned $468 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
  • Board of Directors declares company’s 26th consecutive quarterly dividend.

Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) today reported financial results for the September quarter 2019 and provided its outlook for the December quarter 2019. Highlights of the September quarter 2019 results, including both GAAP and adjusted metrics, start on page four and are incorporated here.

September Quarter Financial Highlights

  • Adjusted pre-tax income increased $361 million, or 22 percent versus prior year.
  • Adjusted earnings per share were $2.32, a 29 percent increase year over year; Earnings per share and adjusted earnings per share reflect 6.5 percent top-line growth, 2.5 points of operating margin expansion and $1.4 billion of free cash flow.
  • Total adjusted revenue, which excludes refinery sales, grew 6.5 percent to $12.6 billion; Total revenue and adjusted total revenue are a new quarterly record, as the company served a record 55.2 million passengers in the quarter.
  • Total unit revenue, adjusted, increased 2.5 percent; Total unit revenue and total unit revenue adjusted increases were driven by healthy leisure and corporate demand and an approximate one point benefit from the amended American Express agreement.
  • Consolidated operating cost per available seat mile ("CASM") decreased 2.1 percent compared to the September 2018 quarter, primarily due to lower fuel costs and higher capacity.  Non-fuel unit cost (CASM-Ex) increased 2.4 percent compared to the prior year period, driven by employee costs, record passenger volumes and weather.
  • Returned $468 million to shareholders, comprised of $208 million of share repurchases and $260 million in dividends.
  • Generated $7.5 billion of operating cash flow and $4.0 billion of free cash flow on a year-to-date basis, after investing $3.5 billion into the business, primarily for aircraft purchases and modifications.

“Our powerful brand and competitive strengths drove another quarter of great results for our people, customers and owners. Our people bring our brand to life on every flight and I’m pleased to recognize their outstanding efforts with over $1 billion in profit sharing accrued so far this year,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s Chief Executive Officer. “Demand for the Delta product remains healthy, positioning the company for a strong close to 2019 with expectations for more than 20% earnings growth, over $4 billion in free cash flow and a 5th year of pre-tax earnings over $5 billion.”

December Quarter 2019 Outlook

For the December quarter, Delta expects to deliver solid top-line growth and operating margin expansion.  Year-over-year pre-tax margin is impacted by the one-time $91 million gain from the sale of the DAL Global Services business in the December 2018 quarter.

December Quarter 2019 Outlook Table

Revenue Environment

Delta’s adjusted operating revenue of $12.6 billion for the September quarter improved 6.5 percent, $771 million higher than prior year quarter. This revenue result marks a quarterly record for the company, driven by improvements across Delta’s business, including a nine percent increase in premium product ticket revenue and strong percentage increases in loyalty and third-party maintenance revenue.  Cargo revenue during the quarter declined 17 percent driven by lower volumes and yield.  Other revenue increased by $30 million as growth in loyalty and third-party maintenance was offset by $102 million lower third-party refinery sales. Premium products and non-ticket sources now comprise 52 percent of Delta’s total revenue.

Passenger Revenue by Geographic Region:

  • Domestic revenues grew 7.8% in the quarter on 3.2% higher passenger unit revenue (PRASM) and 4.5% higher capacity.  Domestic premium product revenue grew 11% and corporate revenue grew 8%, consistent with growth in the first half of the year.
  • Atlantic revenues grew 3.2% in the quarter on 4.9% higher capacity and a 1.6% decline in PRASM, driven almost entirely by foreign exchange rates.  Premium cabin performance continues to outpace main cabin, where non-U.S. point of sale demand has been impacted by uncertain economic outlook in the region.
  • Latin revenues grew 1.2% on a 3.6% increase in unit revenue and 2.3% lower capacity.  This revenue improvement was driven by continued double-digit unit revenue growth in Brazil and Mexican beach markets offsetting demand pressure from Hurricane Dorian.
  • Pacific revenues declined 4.6% in the quarter on 3.3% higher capacity and a 7.6% decline in unit revenues.  Unit revenue performance was pressured by weaker macroeconomics, trade uncertainty and a nearly one point currency headwind.

“With our outstanding operations and unmatched service, more customers are choosing to fly Delta every day.  Increased customer satisfaction is driving solid top-line performance -- September quarter revenues grew to a record $12.6 billion and we expect December quarter revenues to grow more than five percent versus prior year,” said Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s President. “Strong demand and our customer-focused commercial initiatives are putting us on track to achieve a $3 billion increase in revenues this year, a pace of growth well in excess of GDP.”

Cost Performance

Total adjusted operating expense for the September quarter increased $345 million versus the prior year quarter, with 35% due to higher profit sharing expense.  CASM-Ex was up 2.4 percent for the September quarter compared to the prior year quarter.  This performance was driven by employee costs, record passenger volumes and the compounding effect of weather on the operation.

Adjusted fuel expense decreased $249 million, down ten percent relative to September quarter 2018.  Delta’s adjusted fuel price per gallon for the September quarter was $1.96, which includes a $49 million benefit from the refinery.

Adjusted non-operating expense for the quarter was $65 million higher versus the prior year quarter, driven primarily by pension headwind.

“We are making important investments in our people and facilities to drive sustainable growth in our business.  Unit cost performance in 2019 of approximately two percent is consistent with our long-term target,” said Paul Jacobson, Delta’s Chief Financial Officer.

Cash Flow and Shareholder Returns

Delta generated $2.2 billion of operating cash flow and $1.4 billion of free cash flow during the quarter after the investment of $814 million into the business primarily for aircraft purchases and improvements, and $150 million to support our strategic alliance with LATAM.  Year to date, the company has generated $7.5 billion of operating cash flow and $4.0 billion of free cash flow.

For the September quarter, Delta returned $468 million to shareholders, comprised of $208 million of share repurchases and $260 million in dividends.

The Board of Directors has declared Delta's 26th consecutive quarterly dividend. The dividend of $0.4025 per share will be payable to shareholders of record as of the close of business on October 24, 2019, to be paid on November 14, 2019.

“With $7.5 billion in operating cash flow year-to-date, our strong cash generation sets Delta apart in the industry, and allows us to maintain consistent reinvestment in our business, an investment grade balance sheet and substantial cash returns to shareholders,” added Paul Jacobson, Delta’s Chief Financial Officer.

LATAM Airlines Strategic Partnership

On September 26, 2019, Delta announced plans to enter into a strategic partnership with LATAM Airlines.  Subject to customary conditions including regulatory approval, the company will invest $1.9 billion for up to 20 percent of the common shares of LATAM through a public tender offer at $16 per share, to be funded with newly issued debt and available cash.  In addition, Delta will invest $350 million to support the establishment of the strategic partnership, $150 million of which was paid in the September quarter.  Delta will also acquire four A350 aircraft from LATAM, and has agreed to assume LATAM’s commitment to purchase 10 additional A350 aircraft.

Delta expects that the transaction will be accretive to earnings per share over the next two years and that the transaction will not impact the company’s existing financial commitments to shareholders, including free cash flow and shareholder returns.

Strategic Highlights

In the September quarter, Delta achieved a number of milestones across its five key strategic pillars.

Culture and People

  • Rewarded Delta people through an additional $517 million in profit sharing accrual and paid $12 million in Shared Rewards, recognizing the performance of Delta's more than 80,000 employees through a busy summer.
  • Certified as a Great Place to Work for the fourth consecutive year, with 92% of respondents proud to work at Delta and 90% wanting to work at Delta for a long time, emphasizing the importance of culture as a competitive advantage.
  • Announced a 4% base pay increase for eligible ground and flight attendant employees, rewarding the best people in the business for industry-leading performance.

Operational Reliability

  • Delivered 202 days of zero mainline cancellations and 115 days of zero system cancellations through the first nine months of the year, an improvement of 12% and 19% respectively versus 2018 (based on Delta internal reporting for flights scheduled systemwide).
  • Reached record completion factor through the September quarter on a system and mainline basis, with mainline completion factor of 99.79%.
  • Carried an all-time record 55.2 million customers in the September quarter, 6% more than prior year.

Network and Partnerships

  • Announced plans for a strategic alliance with LATAM Airlines, combining the strengths of the leading airlines in North and South America that together will be the strongest competitor in five of the top six Latin American markets from the U.S. and serve 435 destinations worldwide.
  • Increased equity investment in Hanjin-KAL, the largest shareholder of Korean Air, to 10% demonstrating the airline's commitment to the success of its joint venture with Korean Air, which provides customers with seamless access to a robust trans-Pacific network.
  • Announced expanded trans-Atlantic service in 2020, including Boston to Rome, London-Gatwick and Manchester, broadening travel choices for customers across the Atlantic and offering the Delta One experience to customers on trans-Atlantic flights over six and a half hours in 2020.
  • Relocated to the new Satellite Terminal at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, creating a more seamless and convenient experience for customers, flying over 1,350 codeshare domestic flights per week to more than 40 cities across China.

Customer Experience and Loyalty

  • Debuted a refreshed portfolio of Delta SkyMiles American Express Cards, rewarding our customers in new and innovative ways to elevate the travel experience, with a variety of benefits ranging from double miles on restaurants worldwide, to Delta Sky Club access and one-time guest passes, to earning Medallion status faster.
  • Released the latest version of the Fly Delta app, providing customers with an improved travel experience through integrated security wait times in select markets, the option to pre-select meals in Delta One and domestic First Class, seat maps for all Delta and Delta Connection aircraft, and the auto-check-in feature on certain international routes.
  • Extended business traveler benefits for customers flying Virgin Atlantic and Aeromexico through Corporate Priority benefits, allowing better seat choice, priority boarding and priority service recovery, further removing seams in the travel experience.

Investment Grade Balance Sheet

  • Reported a 1.7x adjusted debt to EBITDAR ratio in line with our long-term leverage ratio target of 1.5x to 2.5x adjusted debt to EBITDAR, which is expected to allow Delta to maintain investment grade ratings through a business cycle.

September Quarter Results

Adjusted results primarily exclude the impact of unrealized gains/losses on investments.