Delta loses $363 million

Delta Air Lines reported a $363 million loss for the first quarter on Thursday, with higher spending on labor and fuel overshadowing a sharp rise in revenue.

But the airline predicted it will make a bigger-than-expected profit in the current second quarter, which includes the start of the key summer travel season.

Airlines are getting a tailwind from the combination of strong demand and limited flights, which has pushed fares higher. But investors were spooked this week when industry analysts warned that growth in airline bookings has slowed down compared with this time last year.

Delta’s CEO said it is unfair to compare current ticket sales with those from a year ago, when travel was just starting to boom as pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

CEO Ed Bastian and other airline executives have been saying for months that travel demand shows no signs of weakening despite high inflation, layoffs in the tech industry, the failures of a couple banks, and uncertainty about the economy. They say Americans still want to catch up on travel that they postponed when the pandemic hit.

“The second quarter is looking very good. The demand picture is strong,” Bastian said in an interview. “We are looking to grow our (passenger-carrying) capacity by mid-double digits, and revenue along a similar pattern” — by 15% to 17% over the same quarter last year.