| BOSTON, March 9
BOSTON, March 9 Delta Air Lines Inc.
Chief Executive Ed Bastian on Thursday sounded an optimistic
note for 2017 earnings and said he expects to meet soon with the
company's newest and biggest investor, billionaire Warren
Two months ago Delta announced last year's record-breaking
performance, but noted that higher fuel prices and wage costs
could weigh on margins during the March quarter before they
expand again in the second half of the year.
"The numbers are sound ... we are on a good trajectory,"
Bastian said, forecasting that the company's full year pre-tax
income could be around $6 billion, roughly matching last year's
number. The company paid out $1.1 billion to employees in profit
sharing in February and expects to see a further reduction in
its debt load.
Speaking at the Boston College Chief Executives Club lunch,
Bastian talked about the company's roughly 180 million
customers, its 80,000 employees and perhaps most notably, its
biggest shareholder. "The fact that Buffett signed on is a
pretty good indication that this time is different," Bastian
said, expressing confidence that the consolidated industry is
now stronger after a number of companies went through
Buffett extended a vote of confidence to the airline
industry, which he once called a "death trap for investors," in
regulatory filings in February showing his Berkshire Hathaway
raised its stake in American Airlines, Delta
and United Continental Holding Group and added a new
position in Southwest Airlines during the fourth
Even though Buffett, whose personal net worth is estimated
at $78.5 billion by Forbes, recently said that he has not flown
on a commercial airline in years, he has $3 billion invested in
Delta. Bastian and Buffett have corresponded but not met. "He
invited me to meet ...we'll be meeting soon," he said.
Bastian met recently with President Donald Trump and said
that safety has to be a primary concern, noting Trump has said
he supports privatizing the country's air traffic control
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Dan Grebler)