Delta Air Lines missed Wall Street’s marks with its June traffic report, in which the Atlanta-based carrier said traffic, measured in RPMs, rose 3% on capacity, measured in ASMs, that was 3.1% higher than last year.
Delta reported unit revenue, or PRASM, grew 4.5% compared to last year. This number disappointed analysts, who expected a 6% PRASM growth for the month and resulted in an overall decline in airline share prices on June 2.
The company said part of the lower PRASM guidance could be attributed to the relatively poor performance of Latin America routes during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which ends July 13. In its report, Delta said, “Corporate and domestic strength offset lower-than-expected international yields driven by industry-wide capacity increases and lower business demand to Latin America due to the World Cup.”
IATA expected revenue within Brazil and on routes to Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America to fall during the tournament, as business travel declines precipitously and traffic to each individual game tends to flow in one direction, resulting in lower yields on the return flights.
However, Delta added 23. 5% more capacity on routes to Latin America in June, compared to the year-ago month. Traffic to the region rose 20.4%, and load factors were down 2.1 points, the company said.
Analysts believe the Latin American market will recover after the World Cup. “We think there is likely to be pent-up business demand for August and September to Brazil and are not inclined to overreact to one data point,” Cowen & Co. analyst Helane Becker said. “We believe if demand for the seats is not there, Delta will reduce capacity.”
And although Wall Street initially reacted negatively to Delta’s June traffic report, most analysts believe the longer-term forecast for the company is very positive. J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said the company will perform to expectations in the second quarter and forecasts operating margins to be at 14.9%. Delta is expected to update investors on operating margins soon when it reports its second-quarter financial performance.
Yet, Delta’s performance continues to lead the industry, UBS analyst Darryl Genovesi said. PRASM growth, despite being lower than forecast, was in line with Genovesi’s earlier forecast, and he forecasts costs per available seat-mile to be flat to 1% higher than the same period last year.
Delta’s domestic traffic rose almost 4% on 2.2% more capacity, compared with last year. Atlantic and Pacific traffic fell 1.3% and 2.5%, respectively, on capacity that was 1% higher in the Atlantic system and 0.5% lower in the Pacific.