Delta 4Q profit soars on higher fares, demand

A Delta Airlines plane taxis past a gate at Logan Airport in Boston. (File)

A Delta Airlines plane taxis past a gate at Logan Airport in Boston. (File)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Delta Air Lines' fourth-quarter net income rose sharply, as higher fares offset a bigger fuel bill.Like other carriers, Delta was able to raises fares by cutting the amount of flying it did at the end of last year. The money it made flying a passenger a single mile rose 12 percent.

The company's fourth-quarter net income rose to $425 million, or 50 cents per share, compared with $19 million, or 2 cents, a year earlier, when it was hit with charges from early debt repayment and consolidation of airport operations.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $8.4 billion in the latest quarter, helping counter a 5-percent rise in fuel expenses on its mainline operations. Other costs were flat.

Excluding one-time gains and losses, Delta earned 45 cents per share, beating the 37 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Delta's 2011 profit totaled $854 million, 44 percent higher than in 2010. Revenue rose 11 percent to $35 billion. It has now turned a profit two years in a row.

Delta's strategy of reducing flying to match demand will continue. The carrier said Wednesday that it will cut flying capacity 3 percent to 5 percent during the first quarter of 2012.

Shares of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. rose 47 cents, or 5 percent, to $9.85 in premarket trading.

AP Airlines Writer Samantha Bomkamp in New York contributed to this report.