Delta expects omicron to drive quarterly loss but forecasts 2022 profit on travel rebound

Delta expects omicron to drive quarterly loss but forecasts 2022 profit on travel rebound

January 14, 2022: -On Thursday, Delta Air Lines said that the surge of the omicron variant of Covid-19 will drive it to a first-quarter loss but that it still expects travel demand to rebound and to turn a profit this year.

Delta posted its highest revenue in the fourth quarter since late 2019, thanks to solid holiday bookings and more business travel. Sales of $9.47 billion beat analysts’ expectations for $9.21 billion. Revenue was decreased 17% from $11.44 billion during the last three months of 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic began.

After the company reported results, Delta’s shares were up 2.7% in premarket trading.

President Glen Hauenstein cautioned, “The recent increase in COVID cases associated with the omicron variant is expected to impact the pace of demand recovery early in the quarter, with recovery momentum which will resume from President’s Day weekend forward.”

Delta posted a net loss of $408 million in the fourth quarter as fuel and other costs surged, partly driven by disruptions from omicron’s spread. Adjusting for one-time items, Delta reported per-share earnings of 22 cents, ahead of 14 cents Wall Street expected.

Delta reported a $280 million profit for the entire year. It is the first two years, thanks to $4.5 billion in federal aid for airline labor costs during the crisis. In 2020, after travel demand plunged, Delta’s biggest-ever loss: $12.4 billion.

Delta is the first U.S. airline to report fourth-quarter results and give a detailed forecast of the variant’s impact on its business. Omicron’s rapid spread has hit industries from theaters to restaurants to retailers and grocery stores.

Airlines, including Delta, have canceled thousands of flights since Christmas Eve as a spike in Covid infections among crews left them short-staffed.

Delta said that its operation has stabilized and that omicron caused it to cancel 1% of its flights over the past week.

But omicron will keep a lid on bookings for the near term.

“Despite expectations for a loss in the March quarter, we remain positioned to generate a healthy profit in the June, September, and December quarters, which results in a meaningful profit in 2022,” Delta CFO Dan Janki said in the earnings release.

Investors have shrugged off omicron’s impact on carriers. Delta’s shares are up 3.9% this year by Wednesday, until United and American shares are up 6.3% and 3%, respectively. The S&P 500 is down 0.84%.

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