The disastrous results of SkyMiles 2015 are in – Delta earned more money in the first quarter of 2015 than in any other Q1 in its history. From Delta’s press release:

  • Delta’s adjusted pre-tax income for the March 2015 quarter was $594 million, an increase of $150 millionover 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.


Even more telling for the quarter to come is this – “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 (emphasis mine) 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.”

MJ’s Take

This was a fairly impressive quarter for Delta, and the tailwinds of declining fuel prices are improving the bottom lines of all airlines. Looking ahead, capacity will tick up a bit over the summer, but flatten for the winter quarter. Delta is taking action to drastically reduce capacity in select markets most impacted by the strengthening dollar and lower oil prices.

Overall, 2015 is shaping up just about as I expected. My joke about “disastrous SkyMiles 2015” aside, Delta remains a strong airline with a weak loyalty program relative to the competition. At the moment, that is a combination that is working for Delta, and I’m not surprised. People (including this blogger) fly Delta for a host of reasons, with the loyalty program being somewhere down the list. You’ve read my reasons before. For most, it’s a combination of schedule, price, and operational reliability along with living near a Delta hub or in a region well-served from one of those hubs.

That works for me, but I won’t pretend that I haven’t changed some of my travel and mileage earning habits in response to a few of the less than wonderful habits I’ve seen develop at SkyMiles. What I’d like to see from Delta is an investment of a tiny fraction of these profits in openness and transparency in the SkyMiles program. Be forthright about where you are headed with SkyMiles and stop the surprises. And until you make the jump to a totally revenue-based program, publish the award chart already.

-MJ, April 15, 2015

Logo image courtesy of Delta Air Lines