Delta Air Lines made a profit in March amid the increase in business travel volumes during the first quarter of 2022.
During a Q1 earnings call, executives also said the carrier increased corporate fares to 2019 levels.
Domestic business travel sales at the end of the quarter increased to about 70 per cent of Q1 2019 levels according to Glen Hauenstein, Delta president, and the carrier expects the figure to increase to the low 70s in Q2.
An internal survey of corporate clients carried out by the airline found that about 90 per cent of respondents indicated plans to increase business travel in the second quarter.
Hauenstein said: "We are seeing more corporates implement changes to travel policies. For example, domestic travel restrictions have been completely removed for all of our top corporate accounts. And increasingly, corporates are allowing upsells to premium cabins and refundable products."
He called the first quarter "a tale of two halves," noting bookings increased substantially after the Presidents' Day holiday in February, after the US Covid-19 omicron variant outbreak began to wane.
The increased demand helped Delta increase corporate fares to the point that in March they exceeded 2019 levels, the first month that has happened since the pandemic began.
Delta reported $6.9 billion in first-quarter passenger revenue, down 25 per cent from the first quarter of 2019. The carrier reported adjusted operating revenue of $8.2 billion, a 79 per cent recovery versus Q1 2019, and $9.3 billion in operating revenue.
Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, said: "We are greatly encouraged by the momentum we are seeing, and we remain confident in our outlook for meaningful full-year profit for 2022."
Delta projected Q2 system capacity of about 84 per cent of 2019 levels, up slightly from the 83 per cent recorded in the first quarter. Hauenstein characterised the small increase in capacity ramp-up as a matter of prudence.
"As we get through the year, if these demand trends continue, we have the opportunity to take another tick-up, or we could pivot in a different direction if warranted. But I think it has made it very clear to us that being nimble until we get to the very end of this is the key to our success," he said.
Delta's adjusted Q1 fuel price of $2.79 per gallon was up 33 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2021, and the carrier projected a Q2 cost of $3.20 to $3.35 per gallon.
Like many international US carriers, Delta has called for the US government to drop its requirement for travellers to the US to submit a negative Covid-19 test before departure. During the call, Hauenstein and Peter Carter, Delta EVP, chief legal officer and corporate secretary, suggested the requirement could be dropped soon, based on contacts in the administration.
Carter said: "We were obviously engaged throughout the administration, and I will tell you that we are getting a strong indication that the testing will be phased out in the near future which is, of course, quite encouraging."
Meanwhile, Bastian said Delta has "not seen an impact to travel demand" from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.