Did Delta Just Put Air Between Itself and Competitors American, Southwest and United?

A new credit card deal and rising corporate travel boosted profits for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines in the first quarter, a trend it predicts will continue this spring.Delta executives said Wednesday that corporate-account revenue is up 10% from this time last year, helping offset choppy demand from vacation travelers.That was one of several factors that pushed Delta's first-quarter profit up by 31% to $730 million.Delta has been leading its closest U.S. rivals -- Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Chicago-based United Airlines -- in financial measurements such as profit margin and operational ones like on-time flights and fewer cancellations. Delta executives say it helps them win corporate travelers.On top of that, Delta cut a revamped credit card deal with American Express that Delta says will produce $500 million in additional revenue this year and even more in the future. AmEx will pay Delta up to $7 billion a year by 2023, compared with $3.4 billion last year -- a better deal for the airline than analysts were expecting.Delta gets an increasing share of revenue, now 55%, from premium fares and non-ticket sources such as the credit card deal and a growing aircraft-maintenance operation, which might partly insulate it from an economic slowdown.  Continue reading...

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