(Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) on Wednesday said it earned more per mile in November than a year ago, as earlier cuts to its flight capacity abroad helped offset flat trans-Atlantic traffic in a month disrupted by the Paris attacks.
Delta shares were up 2.6 percent at $48.92 in early afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange after the airline said a key measure of performance, passenger revenue per available seat mile, increased 1.5 percent, marking the first rise in months. U.S. airline stocks .SPCOMALI rose 2.3 percent.
Delta said in a news release that the increase included a two-percentage-point benefit from the timing of peak travel around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. December passenger unit revenue will be at the "high end" of prior guidance of a drop between 2.5 percent and 4.5 percent, it said.
Delta, the third-largest U.S. airline, reduced international service after unit revenue dropped earlier this year, as the strong dollar lowered foreign sales in dollar terms.
It said the number of seats sold on November trans-Atlantic flights, or revenue passenger miles, was about flat from a year earlier. In October, that measure rose 3 percent.
"November was much better than expected," Sterne Agee CRT analyst Adam Hackel said. "Capacity cuts in problem international markets are working, and domestic is strong without exposure to Dallas," where other airlines have ramped up flight service.
Delta declined to elaborate on whether the results reflected a decrease in bookings after the Paris attacks claimed by Islamic State. The airline's partner, Air France KLM SA (AIRF.PA), with which it shares revenue, and other airlines have acknowledged a dip in traffic to Paris after the Nov. 13 attacks that killed 130 people.
Travel demand has been resilient over the years, dipping significantly only after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in Asia a decade ago, and the 1991 Gulf War, said David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Airport and airline officials have ramped up random passenger checks and cargo screening, according to Bruce McIndoe, chief executive of travel risk consultancy iJET.
A number of iJET’s corporate clients briefly halted employee travel to Paris and Brussels. McIndoe said he expects employers will increase scrutiny of travel plans in the coming year.
Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Christoph Mueller said in an interview that there has been an impact on traffic to and from Paris, but he believes travelers will have confidence in airlines to enhance security procedures.
“I believe it's more a function of government travel advice than people being scared to fly,” he said.
Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Joe White and Jonathan Oatis