Delta has yet to see an increase in demand for business travel after the reduction in the corporate tax rate, Delta president Glen Hauenstein said during the carrier's quarterly earnings call Thursday.
The corporate tax cut was included in the sweeping tax bill President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 22.
Still, Delta is bullish that the reduction in corporate income taxes from 35% to 21% will drive more premium sales soon.
"We are very excited for the increase of business demand with the tax cuts," Hauenstein said. "We haven't seen that materialize yet, but we expect to see it materialize in the first quarter."
As a result of the tax cut, Delta has increased its guidance for 2018 full-year earnings per share from $6.35 to $6.70. But the lower rate won't actually affect Delta's tax burden this year, as it will not pay income taxes due to losses carried forward from previous years.
Since Jan. 1, American, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue have each announced that they will give employees a bonus of $1,000 due to the tax cut. But Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the Atlanta-based carrier wouldn't chase its competitors on that front. Instead, Delta will stick to its long-term profit-sharing plan that Bastion described as sustainable and far better than a one-time payout.
"We have no intention to compete away the tax savings," he said, before emphasizing that this year Delta won't have any savings.
Delta's discussion about taxes came as it reported solid full-year and fourth-quarter results for 2017.
The carrier reported net income in the fourth quarter of $572 million, down from $622 million a year earlier. Delta's full-year net income was $3.58 billion, down 18% from last year.
Delta recorded operating revenue in the fourth quarter of $10.24 billion, up 8% year-over-year and $90 million more than analysts' expectations, according to the website Seeking Alpha. The increase in revenue was countered by a 7% increase in expenses, driven in part by a 21% jump in fuel costs. Delta's earnings per share in the fourth quarter was 96 cents, beating expectations by 7 cents.
For the full year 2017, Delta reported revenue of $41.24 billion, up 4% from 2016. Operating expenses jumped 7%.
Delta offered an optimistic forecast for the first quarter of this year, with revenue per available seat mile projected to increase between 2.5% and 4.5% while cost growth declines.