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Table of Contents

How Delta Air Lines Makes Money: Passenger, Cargo, Other

Passenger revenue is rising rapidly amid a recovery in travel demand

Delta Air Lines (DAL) is a global airline based in the U.S. Based in Atlanta, it is among the largest air carriers in the country and the second-largest in the world after American Airlines. The company's roots go back to 1925 with its first commercial passenger flight taking off four years later.

The company is well known for providing air transportation services for passengers and cargo through its main fleet and various subsidiaries. Delta also offers ancillary air services and a customer loyalty program. But most people don't know that Delta also has a number of other wholly-owned subsidiaries in other industries, including:

  • Aero Assurance
  • Epsilon Trading, which is an owner-operator of airline fueling stations in the United States
  • Monroe Trading, which is an oil refinery business that primarily serves the airline business by providing them with jet fuel

But just how does the company make money? This article looks at the company's financials and the main drivers of its profitability.

Key Takeaways

  • Delta Air Lines is a global airline providing air transportation for passengers and cargo.
  • Headquartered in Atlanta, Delta's history dates back to the early 1900s.
  • Delta was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic like other airlines.
  • The company's passenger revenue is growing fast as travel demand rebounds after being decimated by the pandemic.
  • Delta canceled its codesharing agreement with Russia's Aeroflot amid the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Delta Air Lines' Financials

The company's operating revenue for the 2022 fiscal year (FY) was $50.58 billion. As with the previous year, Delta compared its financial figures from 2022 to pre-COVID results in 2019. The change was an 8% increase from the $47.01 billion earned in 2019. Operating income came in at $3.66 billion in 2022 compared to $6.62 billion in 2019.

Like most airline companies, Delta experienced a significant adverse impact on its business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the company served approximately 70 million customers, down nearly two-thirds from 2019.

Delta remains confident moving forward, saying the environment for air travel "remains favorable," thanks largely to stronger consumer demand and recovering business bookings. As such, the company promises shareholders that they can expect "significant earnings and cash flow growth."

Delta Air Lines' Business Segments

Delta has two operating segments: airline and refinery. The airline segment constitutes a single business unit representing all air transportation services for passengers and cargo worldwide, as well as the company's customer loyalty program and ancillary airline services. The refinery segment represents Delta's wholly-owned subsidiary Monroe Energy, which operates an oil refinery business that supplies jet fuel to Delta's airline operations.

Delta also breaks out operating numbers differently from the above. In these cases, Delta breaks out revenue into three operating areas: passenger, cargo, and other.

  • Passenger: $40.22 billion
  • Cargo: $1.05 billion
  • Other: $9.31 billion

Delta, however, does not report operating income for each segment.

Travel demand began to recover amid vaccine rollouts and an easing of travel restrictions. Delta said its domestic consumer travel demand returned to 2019 levels as demand for business and international travel continues to recover.


Delta's passenger revenue primarily consists of revenue for airline tickets sold to customers flying in both business-cabin and main-cabin seating. This category also includes revenue generated from loyalty travel awards and travel-related services.

Passenger revenue was $40.22 billion in 2022. That's a 5% drop from 2019 when the segment earned $42.28. This segment accounted for more than 79% of the company's 2022 operating revenue.


Delta's cargo revenue includes revenue generated from scheduled air transportation services for non-passenger cargo. The company introduced cargo-only charter flights in 2020 in response to a reduction in industry cargo capacity due to the impacts of the pandemic.

Operating revenue for the cargo segment came in at $1.05 billion compared to $753 million in 2019. That's an increase of 39%. Cargo revenue comprised about 2% of companywide revenue in the fourth quarter.


Delta's other revenue includes the company's oil refinery business and other ancillary businesses, including aircraft maintenance services provided to third parties and the company's vacation wholesale operations. It also includes a portion of the company's loyalty program revenue and miscellaneous other revenue sources.

The company reported operating revenue of $9.31 billion for the Other segment for the 2022 fiscal year. That's an increase from the $3.98 billion reported in 2019. This segment represented just over 18% of total revenue during the quarter.

Delta's competitors include American Airlines (AAL), Southwest Airlines (LUV), and United Airlines (UAL).

Delta Air Lines' Recent Developments

Delta announced that it withdrew its business arrangement with Russian airline Aeroflot in February 2022. The suspension was in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. As such, Delta no longer sells tickets operated by the airline and won't allow Aeroflot to sell tickets on its own flights. The company also removed its airline code from the Moscow airport. Aeroflot's code was also removed from airports in Los Angeles and New York. Delta also stopped flying to and from Russia and Ukraine.

Article Sources
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