Delta posted a $558 million profit for the last quarter of 2013, as more passengers climbed aboard, then paid more to fly. Delta ended the year with a profit of 65 cents per share, not counting special items. The overall profit for 2013 was $2.7 billion , excluding special charges. That was a 74% or $1.1 billion jump, compared with 2012. "Across the board, this was an outstanding quarter and year," Richard Anderson , Delta's CEO, said in an earnings call. The airline's end-of-the-year profit came as passenger traffic grew 2% in the last three months of 2013. Delta boosted its number of available seats by 2.9%. Passenger revenue for the last three months of 2013 rose by 6.1%, or $451 million , compared with that quarter the previous year. The airline made gains from higher fares, its yield growing by 4%. Counting special items, Delta's profit for the final quarter of 2013 was $8.5 billion , or $9.89 per share, but that was largely because of a non-cash, tax-related gain of about $8 billion . Vicki Bryan , senior high yield analyst at the independent corporate bonds research service Gimme Credit , said in an investors note that Delta's positive showing boded well for the flurry of airline earnings reports coming in the next several days. "We expect Delta's numbers to be among the best in what should be a nice quarter for the airline segment," Bryan wrote. Delta plans to continue swapping out smaller 50-seat regional jets, which guzzle fuel, with more cost-efficient aircraft. It will finish outfitting jets used for international flights with lie-flat seats this spring. Its joint venture with Virgin Atlantic is allowing it a major footprint in Europe's primary hubs, as well as 25% of seats ferrying travelers between the USA and London's Heathrow . Delta expects to increase its available seats by 2% to 3% in the first three months of this year.
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