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Earnings Preview: Delta Air Lines

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines Inc. is expected to report another profitable year on Tuesday even though traffic barely rose.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Investors will be eager to hear whether Delta intends to stick to its plan to cut first-quarter flying as much as 4 percent, and to keep it flat for the full year.

WHY IT MATTERS: Perhaps more than any other airline, Delta has been carrying out the airline playbook of limiting the number of seats available to keep fares higher. Last year Delta reduced flying by 1.8 percent worldwide. Traffic ticked up by 0.1 percent. So with fewer seats even though traffic was basically flat, its planes were a little more full. Analyst expect that to be good for fares, and for the airline.

Dahlman Rose analyst Helane Becker listed Delta as one of three U.S. airlines with the best chance for a better-than-expected profit. The other U.S. airlines on her list were Alaska and Southwest.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Net income of $425 million, or 50 cents per share, for the quarter.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet are expecting a profit of 27 cents per share on revenue of $8.59 billion. It's expected to report a full-year profit, too, which would be its third in a row.

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