Delta says key revenue measure rose 4 percent

ATLANTA (AP) -- Delta Air Lines Inc. said Thursday that a key revenue figure rose 4 percent in December as it benefited from strong demand for holiday travel, sales of add-on products, and a tight supply of seats for sale.

A similar formula is expected to help it post a fourth-quarter profit when it reports results in a few weeks.

Delta finished the year with a gain of just 0.1 percent in traffic. That included a 0.3 percent decline in domestic traffic, and a 0.7 percent gain in international traffic.

However, flying capacity for the year fell 1.8 percent. That means that Delta was cutting seats at a time when traffic was nearly unchanged. The result was fuller planes — occupancy for the year rose 1.6 percentage points to 83.7 percent.

Delta has been aiming to keep a lid on flying growth. It plans to cut flying as much as 4 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and keep it flat for the full year. The idea is that if seats are in short supply, airlines can charge more.

The number of passengers boarded rose 0.4 percent for the year, to 164.6 million.

For the month of December, Delta traffic rose 0.5 percent, with a 2.4 percent gain in international traffic offsetting a 0.8 percent decline in domestic traffic.

Flying capacity — measured as one seat flown one mile — fell 1.7 percent for the month, with declines in both domestic and international flying.

Occupancy rose 1.8 percentage points to 82.7 percent.

Shares of Atlanta-based Delta rose 2 cents to $12.25 in morning trading.