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Delta Air Lines reports first quarter adjusted net income of $372 million

Delta Air Lines (Atlanta) today reported financial results for the March 2015 quarter kicking off the airlines earnings reporting period. Key points include according to the airline:

Delta’s adjusted pre-tax income1 for the March 2015 quarter was $594 million, an increase of $150 million over the March 2014 quarter on a similar basis. Delta’s adjusted net income for the March 2015 quarter was $372 million, or $0.45 per diluted share, and its adjusted operating margin was 8.8 percent.

On a GAAP basis, Delta’s March quarter pre-tax income was $1.2 billion, operating margin was 14.9 percent and net income was $746 million, or $0.90 per share.

Results include $136 million in profit sharing expense, recognizing Delta employees’ contributions toward meeting the company’s financial goals.

The company used its strong cash generation in the quarter to return $500 million to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases and to make $904 million in pension contributions.

“Delta’s business is performing well, producing the best March quarter, both operationally and financially, in Delta’s history,” said Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer. “While the strong dollar is creating headwinds with international revenues, it also contributes to the lower fuel prices which will offset those headwinds with over $2 billion in fuel savings this year. We are looking at June quarter operating margins of 16-18 percent with over $1.5 billion of free cash flow—these record results and cash flows show that the strong dollar is a net positive for Delta.”

Capacity Actions in Light of Strong Dollar and Lower Energy Prices

To address currency headwinds, Delta plans to reduce its international capacity by 3 percent year over year for the winter schedule. These international reductions, combined with 2 percent domestic growth, will result in flat system capacity for the December quarter. Capacity adjustments will be focused on markets that have been most affected by the strong dollar and markets where demand has been negatively impacted by the decline in oil prices. Key actions for the December quarter will include a 15-20 percent reduction in service from Japan, a 15 percent reduction to Brazil, a 15-20 percent reduction to Africa, India and the Middle East, and suspension of service to Moscow for the winter season.

Revenue Environment

Delta’s operating revenue improved 5 percent, or $472 million, in the March 2015 quarter compared to the March 2014 quarter. Traffic increased 3.6 percent on a 5.0 percent increase in capacity, which includes 2 points due to capacity removed in the first quarter of 2014 as a result of winter storms. Foreign exchange pressured revenue by $105 million for the quarter.

Passenger revenue increased 3 percent, or $246 million, compared to the prior year period.

Passenger unit revenue (PRASM) decreased 1.7 percent year over year primarily driven by 1.5 points of negative foreign exchange impact.

Cargo revenue was unchanged from the prior year period as higher volumes offset lower yields.
Other revenue increased 22 percent, or $226 million, driven by SkyMiles revenues and third-party refinery sales.

“For the March quarter, Delta delivered solid 5 percent top line growth and a 17.8 percent operating margin at market fuel prices,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s president. “The substantial benefit from lower fuel prices will again more than offset the unit revenue decline of 2 to 4 percent for the June quarter to produce operating margins north of 20 percent at market fuel prices.”

Fuel

Adjusted fuel expense2 increased $23 million as lower market fuel prices were offset by $1.1 billion of settled hedge losses, including $300 million of early settlements of contracts originally settling in the second half of 2015 as the company restructured its hedge book. Delta’s average fuel price was $2.93 per gallon for the March quarter. Operations at the refinery produced an $86 million profit for the March quarter, a $127 million improvement year-over-year.

Cost Performance

Consolidated unit cost adjusted for fuel expense, profit sharing and special items (CASM-Ex3), was down 1.4 percent in the March 2015 quarter on a year-over-year basis, with higher capacity, foreign exchange and the benefits of Delta’s domestic refleeting and other cost initiatives offsetting the company’s investments in its employees, products and operations.

“With nearly 10 percent of our expenses non-dollar denominated, we are seeing cost tailwinds from the strong dollar which should benefit our non-fuel unit costs by 1 point in the June quarter,” said Paul Jacobson, Delta’s chief financial officer. “With this currency benefit and the strong cost control that is a hallmark of the Delta culture, we are on track to deliver our eighth consecutive quarter of non-fuel unit cost growth below 2 percent in the June quarter.”

Adjusted for special items, non-fuel operating expense in the quarter increased $333 million year-over-year driven by wage increases, profit sharing, and higher volume-related expenses. These cost increases were partially offset by foreign exchange and savings from Delta’s cost initiatives.

Non-operating expense, adjusted for special items, declined by $34 million as a result of $55 million in lower interest expense, partially offset by an $11 million higher foreign exchange loss on foreign-denominated assets and liabilities compared to the first quarter of 2014.

Cash Flow

Cash from operations during the March 2015 quarter was $1.1 billion and free cash flow was $511 million, driven by the company’s March quarter profit and the normal seasonal increase in advance ticket sales. Cash flow from operations and free cash flow exclude the return of fuel hedge margin posted. Capital expenditures during the March 2015 quarter were $586 million, including $411 million in fleet investments. During the quarter, Delta’s net debt and capital lease maturities were $260 million.

With its strong cash generation in the March 2015 quarter, the company returned $500 million to shareholders. The company paid $75 million in cash dividends and repurchased 9.3 million shares for $425 million. Delta also made over $900 million in pension contributions during the quarter.

Delta ended the quarter with adjusted net debt4 of $7.4 billion, including cash held by counterparties as hedge margin. The company has achieved nearly $10 billion in net debt reduction since 2009, resulting in a roughly 50% reduction in annual interest expense.

GAAP Metrics Related to Cost Performance and Cash Flow

On a GAAP basis compared to the March 2014 quarter, consolidated CASM declined 8 percent, total operating expense was down $306 million, and fuel expense declined $600 million. GAAP fuel cost per gallon for the quarter was $2.29. Non-operating expenses for the quarter decreased by $73 million. Cash from operations for the March 2015 quarter was $1.6 billion and the company ended the quarter with debt and capital lease obligations of $9.6 billion on a GAAP basis.

June 2015 Second Quarter Guidance

Following are Delta’s projections for the June 2015 quarter:

2Q15 Forecast

Operating margin

16% – 18%
Fuel price, including taxes, settled hedges and refinery impact

$2.35 – $2.40
CASM – Ex (compared to 2Q14)

Up 0 – 1%
System capacity (compared to 2Q14)

Up ~3%

Special Items

Special items, net of taxes, in the March 2015 quarter totaled $374 million, including:

$372 million for mark-to-market adjustments and settlements on fuel hedges;
$8 million for mark-to-market adjustments on hedges owned by Virgin Atlantic; and
a $6 million charge for fleet and other items, primarily associated with Delta’s domestic fleet restructuring initiative.
Special items, net of taxes, in the March 2014 quarter totaled $68 million, including:

a $31 million charge associated with Delta’s domestic fleet restructuring;
a $21 million mark-to-market adjustment on fuel hedges;
an $11 million charge for debt extinguishment; and
a $5 million charge for mark-to-market adjustments on hedges owned by Virgin Atlantic.

End Notes

(1) Note A to the attached Consolidated Statements of Operations provides a reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures used in this release to the comparable GAAP metric and provides the reasons management uses those measures.

(2) Adjusted fuel expense reflects, among other things, the impact of mark-to-market (“MTM”) adjustments and settlements. MTM adjustments are defined as fair value changes recorded in periods other than the settlement period. Such fair value changes are not necessarily indicative of the actual settlement value of the underlying hedge in the contract settlement period. Settlements represent cash received or paid on hedge contracts settling during the period. These items adjust fuel expense to show the economic impact of hedging, including cash received or paid on hedge contracts during the period. During the March 2015 quarter, we paid $302 million to early settle contracts that were originally scheduled to expire in the second half of 2015. See Note A for a reconciliation of adjusted fuel expense and average fuel price per gallon to the comparable GAAP metric.

(3) CASM – Ex: In addition to fuel expense, profit sharing and special items, Delta believes adjusting for certain other expenses is helpful to investors because other expenses are not related to the generation of a seat mile. These expenses include aircraft maintenance and staffing services Delta provides to third parties, Delta’s vacation wholesale operations, and refinery cost of sales to third parties. The amounts excluded were $293 million and $184 million for the March 2015 and March 2014 quarters, respectively. Management believes this methodology provides a more consistent and comparable reflection of Delta’s airline operations.

(4) Adjusted net debt includes $383 million of hedge margin receivable, which is cash that we have posted with counterparties as hedge margin. See Note A for additional information about our calculation of adjusted net debt.

Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at www.finspreads.com commented on the financial results:

“Delta reported the best first quarter, from a financial perspective, in the company’s history. The airline announced profits, which more than tripled to $746 million from $213 million a year ago and an increase in revenue of 5% to $9.4 billion. The strong dollar has dented Delta’s international revenue to the tune of about $105 million, however it has also been a factor in the decline of the price of oil which has meant cheaper fuel for the company so the strong dollar is actually net positive for Delta. Furthermore Delta expects to save more than $2 billion on fuel this year and also expects record profit margins and free cash flow for the second quarter.

Despite these encouraging results, which beat analyst’s expectations, Delta has also announced that it will be reducing international flights by a further 3% during the last 3 months of the year. This seems to be quite a prudent move by a company who has reported the best first quarter in its history. However, as big price cuts are no longer a significant part for large US airline’s strategy, pulling back on flights seems like a sensible option given the expected strength of the dollar going forward.”

Copyright Photo: TMK Photography/AirlinersGallery.com. Delta is now leasing the former AirTran Airways Boeing 717 fleet from Southwest Airlines. Boeing 717-231 N921AT (msn 55082) taxies at Toronto (Pearson).

Delta Air Lines aircraft slide show (current livery): AG Airline Slide Show

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QANTAS Link to build a Boeing 717 heavy maintenance base at Canberra, QANTAS celebrates 50 years of trans-Tasman jet services

QANTAS Link has announced that it will create a Boeing 717 heavy maintenance base in Canberra, generating up to 40 highly skilled engineering roles in the nation’s capital.

“From October, Canberra will be at the heart of our Boeing 717 engineering operations, which will complement our increased flying out of Canberra with this aircraft type and allow us to better utilize our existing assets at Canberra Airport,” Mr Gissing said.

Heavy maintenance checks are detailed checks of the aircraft, performed every two years on the Boeing 717. On average, it takes around 28 days and 5500 man hours for a Boeing 717 to have a heavy maintenance check.

This is in addition to line maintenance checks, which are basic checks that are done every few days, and currently performed in ports across Australia, including Canberra. QANTAS Link has 18 Boeing 717-200s in its fleet.

The company conducts heavy maintenance on its Bombardier Q400, Q300 and Q200 at its heavy maintenance facility in Tamworth.

QANTAS logo (large)

In other news, QANTAS Airways (Sydney) today celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first jet service between New Zealand and Australia.

Above Copyright Photo: Antony J. Best/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 707-138B VH-XBA (msn 17696) departs from Southend.

On April 10, 1965, a 104 seat QANTAS Boeing 707 (V-jet) aircraft departed Sydney for Christchurch, where it was welcomed by a 10,000 strong crowd. The new Boeing 707s offered a comfortable 20-seat First cabin and 84 seats in Economy.

Previously the Tasman route was serviced by a propeller-driven Lockheed Electra aircraft, and prior to that, Shorts Empire Flying Boats which seated a maximum of 15 passengers and took around nine hours to travel from Auckland to Sydney. The journey now takes around 3 hours.

The inaugural V-jet service was commanded by Chief Pilot Line Operations, Captain “Torchy” Uren and NZ-born cabin crew members Bob Bishop, Alan Williams and Alan Gill as well as Anne Claydon from Lyttelton in Christchurch. QANTAS Founder Sir Hudson Fysh and Lady Fysh were onboard the inaugural service.

Qantas Co-Founder Hudson Fysh (right) and Lady Fysh were on the inaugural service welcomed by Mayor of Christchurch, Mr G. Manning (left)(QANTAS)(LRW)

Above Photo: QANTAS Airways. Co-Founder Hudson Fysh (right) and Lady Fysh were on the inaugural service welcomed by Mayor of Christchurch, Mr G. Manning (left).

Below Photo: QANTAS Airways. The arrival was met by 10,000 people.

QANTAS 707-100B VH-EBI arrival in CHC (QANTAS)(LRW)

QANTAS was established in New Zealand in 1940, when Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL), formed by QANTAS, Imperial Airways (BOAC), and a partnership of Union Airways of New Zealand and the New Zealand Government, inaugurated a weekly service between Sydney and Auckland.

Above Copyright Photo: Jacques Guillem Collection/AirlinersGallery.com. QANTAS Airways Lockheed 188C Electra VH-ECD (msn 2008).

In October 1961, QANTAS began operations in its own right across the Tasman jointly with TEAL, serviced by an Electra international aircraft.

QANTAS today operates more than 200 flights per week between New Zealand and Australia, including services between Auckland and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane; Wellington and Melbourne; and Christchurch and Sydney. Year-round weekly services between Queenstown and Sydney commenced in October 2005 and now operate three times per week, increasing to daily from Sydney and twice a week from Brisbane during the ski season. Jetstar also operates across the Tasman, and within New Zealand between Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown and Dunedin.

Video:

Top Copyright Photo: Rob Finlayson/AirlinersGallery.com. Operated under contract by Cobham Aviation Services Australia (formerly National Jet Systems), Boeing 717-2BL VH-NXR (msn 55168) operating as QANAS Link, departs from Brisbane.

QANTAS Airways aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

QANTAS Link-Cobham aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Hawaiian Airlines retrofits the cabin of its first Boeing 717

Hawaiian Airlines (Honolulu) has announced the completion of a comprehensive retrofit on the first of its 18 Boeing 717 aircraft, featuring an island-inspired interior cabin redesign and new lightweight Main Cabin seating from Acro Aircraft Seating Limited (below).

Hawaiian Airlines B717 Main Cabin Seat

Above Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

Previously, five different cabin configurations were operating among Hawaiian’s neighbor island fleet. When all reconfigurations are complete later this year, the identical galley, lavatory, and 128-seat configuration onboard each aircraft will provide a consistent onboard experience for travelers while decreasing the airline’s operational complexity.

Intended to evoke high-performance automotive design, the new Main Cabin seats complement the fast and reliable service of Hawaiian’s 20 to 60 minute flights. The seatbacks offer a ‘tablet table’ machined from solid aluminum, sized and designed for complimentary beverage service and the use of a tablet device.

The refreshed interior color palette connects travelers with the elements of the islands through earth tones, a deep aqua seat, and accents of fuchsia and sky blue. Contrast stitching in the upholstery brings out natural forms of the islands. Other design elements include new seat covers and leather arm caps in First Class; new carpeting, galley flooring and curtains; and new forward windows on certain aircraft.

The airline’s entire narrow-body fleet, which operates more than 160 short haul flights daily between the islands of the state, will be retrofitted to feature these new cabin enhancements by the end of 2015.

Top Copyright Photo: Ivan K. Nishimura/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 717-22A N475HA (msn 55121) taxies at the Honolulu hub.

Hawaiian Airlines aircraft slide show: AG Airline Slide Show

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Delta confirms it will operate the Boeing 717 between Los Angeles and San Francisco

Delta Air Lines (Atlanta) has now confirmed our previous report of adding the Boeing 717 type to the West Coast Delta Shuttle between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The airline issued this statement today:

Delta Air Lines will introduce Boeing 717 aircraft on eight of the 15 daily flights between Los Angeles International and San Francisco International airports in June, offering 40 percent more seats on its hourly nonstop Delta Shuttle.

Delta launched its hourly nonstop Delta Shuttle product from Los Angeles to San Francisco in September 2013, adding a California perspective to its long relied-upon New York-based Shuttle. The mainline 717s seat 110 passengers and offer access to power from every seat. The remaining seven daily West Coast Shuttle flights will continue to be operated by Delta Connection partner Compass Airlines using 76-seat Embraer ERJ 175 aircraft. All Shuttle flights offer access to First Class and Economy Comfort seating and feature Wi-Fi service, as does nearly every domestic Delta flight out of Los Angeles.

The 717 upgrade on the West Coast Shuttle is the latest in a series of investments in Los Angeles by the airline. Last month, Delta announced plans to begin daily nonstop service to Shanghai in July. Pending foreign government approval, seasonal service from Los Angeles to Managua, Nicaragua, will also begin this summer. These new routes build on Delta’s expansion in both international and domestic service from Los Angeles in recent months, including London-Heathrow in October; Dallas/Fort Worth* and Austin, Texas* in November; and Vancouver, Canada* in December.

*Flight operated by Delta Connection carrier Compass Airlines

From Los Angeles, Delta currently operates 154 peak-day departures to 48 destinations. At the airport, travelers passing through Los Angeles continue to enjoy the benefits of the $229 million expansion and enhancement of Terminal 5 at LAX, scheduled for completion in May 2015. Once onboard, Delta supports and markets the music of emerging artists and short-form content creators through exclusive partnerships that provide in-flight content for customers, who can now enjoy free entertainment from every seat out of Los Angeles through the new Delta Studio product.

Copyright Photo: Tony Storck/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 717-2BD N894AT (msn 55003) taxies to the runway at Baltimore/Washington.

Delta Air Lines aircraft slide show (current livery):

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Delta to bring the Boeing 717 to the West Coast, will resume Atlanta-Honolulu Boeing 747-400 flights

Delta Air Lines (Atlanta) is bringing its leased Boeing 717-200s to the U.S. West Coast on four routes. Los Angeles-Las Vegas, Los Angeles-Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City-Kansas City and Salt Lake City-Las Vegas will be changed to Boeing 717-200 equipment starting on June 4 per Airline Route.

In other news, Delta is bringing back the Boeing 747-400 on the Atlanta-Honolulu route starting on May 1.

Copyright Photo: Gilbert Hechema/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 717-231 N927AT (msn 55077) departs from Montreal (Trudeau).

Delta Air Lines aircraft slide (current livery): AG Slide Show

AirTran Airways operates its last flight, now fully integrated into Southwest Airlines

AirTran 717-200 N717JL taxies into the gate at TPA (Southwest)(LR)

AirTran Airways (Orlando), as planned ended its operations last night (December 28) on its original Atlanta-Tampa route. Special flight FL 1 arrived at the gate at Tampa International Airport (TPA) at 2339 (11:39) EST. As a result, the AirTran brand was retired and the flight marked the full integration of AirTran into Southwest Airlines (Dallas). The last flight was operated with Boeing 717-2BD B717JL (msn 55042).

Read about the history of AirTran Airways: CLICK HERE

Southwest Airlines issued this statement:

Southwest Airlines embarked on a new era on December 28 as it celebrated the last AirTran Airways revenue flight. At 10:25pm EST, AirTran Airways Flight 1 departed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Tampa Bay International Airport.

“With this special flight, we are celebrating history and setting our sights on a bright future for all of Southwest Airlines,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer and AirTran Airways President, who was on the flight to Tampa. “The work of so many People culminates in this moment as we salute the enormous accomplishments of AirTran and Southwest. For our Customers and Employees, we now move forward with one airline, one Customer Experience, one flight schedule, one Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program, and one award-winning Brand.”

More than 400 AirTran and Southwest Employees and special guests gathered in Atlanta Sunday evening to commemorate the milestone. AirTran Flight 1 retraced a route that is a nod to AirTran’s first commercial flight in October 1993. Flight 1’s flight crew consisted of longtime AirTran Employees, including the airline’s Chief Pilot, Floy Ponder, a 19-year veteran of AirTran Airways. Each of the flight’s 117 passengers, consisting of many former AirTran Employees, retirees, special guests, and aviation enthusiasts received a special keepsake celebrating the historic flight.

“As we’ve grown in both the domestic and international markets, I can’t help but think about all the doors the AirTran acquisition has opened for Southwest Airlines,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines Chairman, President & CEO, who was in Atlanta for the send-off. “The most important things—which cannot be measured and are irreplaceable—are the great People of AirTran who have worked hard to achieve this milestone, and are all soon to be part of the Southwest Airlines family.”

The acquisition of AirTran was a unique opportunity to extend the Southwest network into key markets it didn’t yet serve, such as Atlanta and the greater Washington, D.C., area, via Ronald Reagan National Airport. The integration gives Southwest the opportunity to serve Customers from 93 airports in the U.S. and near-international destinations, providing Customers more low-fare destinations as it expands the well-known “Southwest Effect” to hundreds of additional low-fare itineraries for the traveling public.

Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways in 2011.

Photo: Southwest Airlines. Boeing 717-2BD N717JL taxies into the gate at TPA ending the history of the airline.

AirTran Airways aircraft slide show: AG Slide Show

Video: Southwest Airlines. The last AirTran flight from Atlanta to Tampa:

Video:

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/115567085″>The last departure of AirTran Airways</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user19954503″>Bruce Drum</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

SAS Group to phase out the remaining five Blue1 Boeing 717s in 2015, reports a full-year net loss of $92.4 million

Scandinavian Airlines-SAS (Stockholm) issued its year-end financial report for the period ending on October 30, 2014. The company continues to reduce its losses. The Group report a SEK (Swedish Krona) 719 million ($92.4 million) full-year net loss.

The comments by the CEO:

“SAS has delivered the promised efficiency measures, with declining unit costs as a consequence. In parallel, passenger growth was strong and the load factor posted a year-on-year improvement for the eighth successive month. However, earnings were impacted by intense com- petition and strong price pressure. This trend is expected to continue. External production models, proprietary low cost carriers and the use of staffing agencies are increasingly becoming the established indus- try norm and are changing competitive conditions for European avia- tion from the ground up.

To meet these challenges and strengthen competitiveness, we are implementing additional long-term cost-saving measures that spans the entire business and together generates an earnings impact of SEK 2.1 billion with full effect in 2017. Measures include our continued opti- mization of production and streamlining the aircraft fleet. On December 8, 2014, the Danish airline Cimber was acquired as part of this strategy and SAS intends to transfer regional CRJ900 production to Cimber in 2015. We are also enhancing our offering to our frequent travelers. For example, in 2015, the first of the new Airbus A330 Enhanced long-haul aircraft will be delivered to SAS and, in Septem- ber, a new direct route from Stockholm to Asia will be opened.”

Rickard Gustafson, SAS President and CEO.

As part of its cost reduction plan, SAS stated the following in its financial report about Blue1 (Helsinki):

“During the year, SAS has reduced capacity at Blue1 by about 40% as a result of the decision to divest four Boeing 717s. The five remaining Boeing 717s will be phased out in 2015. As a consequence, the SAS aircraft fleet will only comprise four aircraft types compared with nine types in 2012. SAS has also transformed Blue1 into a competitive production company and future production is currently being evaluated.”

Read the full report: CLICK HERE

Top Copyright Photo: SPA/AirlinersGallery.com. SAS’ Boeing 737-7BX SE-RER (msn 30736) arrives in London (Heathrow).

SAS aircraft slide show: AG Slide Show

Bottom Copyright Photo: Ton Jochems/AirlinersGallery.com. Boeing 717-2K9 OH-BLO (msn 55056) taxies from the gate at Amsterdam.

Blue1 aircraft slide show: