Delta Air Lines passengers watch as a Delta plane taxis at Hartsfield-Jackson. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast
Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast

Delta takes hit from higher fuel costs, storms

It could soon become more expensive to fly, with increased fuel costs raising the prospect of higher air fares.

Higher fuel costs and storms that drove flight cancellations caused Delta Air Lines’ profit to decline in the first quarter of the year.

Atlanta-based Delta reported record revenue for the quarter, with operating revenue at more than $9.9 billion.

But that was offset by a 20 percent year-over-year increase in fuel expense and a $44 million toll from severe winter weather.

The storms included nor’easters that caused hundreds of flight cancellations in Boston, New York and other airports. Delta also canceled hundreds of flights in mid-January due to snow and ice in the Southeast.

The airline’s net income declined 2 percent year-over-year to $547 million in the first quarter.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the increase in fuel costs will affect plans for flights this summer.

The airline’s fuel expense increased to nearly $1.9 billion in the first quarter of the year from nearly $1.5 billion a year earlier.

“I think that will be the wild card for the year, where fuel prices go,” Bastian said on CNBC on Thursday morning. “Historically in our industry, it’s been anywhere between six to nine months lag between when the market price for fuel goes up and our ability to price for it.”

He said in the CNBC interview that an increase in fuel prices “forces discipline,” adding that airlines will be “a little more cautious” about their flight plans for the summer.

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