At an analyst meeting in New York on Thursday, Delta (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report President Glen Hauenstein proclaimed himself "the happiest man in the room."

Why? Because unit revenue trends are improving.

Like all airline shares, Delta shares slumped Thursday morning, apparently due to investors' apprehension regarding rising fuel prices.

Delta shares were down 37 cents to $49.60 on Thursday morning. Shares have risen about 1% year to date.

Nevertheless, Delta executives sounded an optimistic note, citing three key reasons why the carrier expects to see share price improvement.

1. Improving Revenue Trends

In explaining why he was so happy, Hauenstein declared, "Our lives on the revenue production side have not been a super fun journey over the last couple of years."

A gradual decline in fuel prices from $120 a barrel to $29 a barrel dragged ticket prices down as well; the fuel price decline ended in November 2016. But that was around the time that new contracts brought labor cost increases throughout the industry. Those cost increases have been largely absorbed.

Hauenstein cited an unusual recent pricing phenomenon. He said that rather than cutting leisure fares, normally booked far in advanced, airlines cut their higher business fares, normally booked later. This occurred, he said, because even though fares at ultra-low-cost carriers Frontier and Spirit were not aimed at business fliers, they "bled into very dense markets."

When an analyst suggested that the strategy reflected "sloppy pricing," Hauenstein responded his choice for terminology would be "suboptimal pricing."

Still, he said, "Go back two years, {better business fare pricing} would be worth $1 billion to Delta."

"We're hopeful that as business demand stays robust, the industry continues to pass on fare increases for time sensitive travel," he said.

2. Pacific Region Growth

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Delta built its Pacific presence largely through its 2008 merger with Northwest.

While establishing a Pacific presence was obviously beneficial, that presence came with a hub at Tokyo Narita and a fleet of Boeing 747s.

Narita's dominance has diminished for reasons including growth at Tokyo Haneda and the ability of new aircraft led by the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 to operate non-stop trans-Pacific flights, bypassing Narita.

"We inherited a hub in Narita and an incredibly large gauge {fleet} that took relatively low yielding traffic to Asia," Hauenstein said.

Delta's deferral of 10 Airbus A350s reflects uncertainty in Pacific market, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said. Delta will take delivery of five A350s in 2017, but it will defer 10 of its 25 A350s from 2019-2020 by two to three years.

Still, Hauenstein said six 747s will be replaced by A350s this year "so we do have growth scheduled for the Pacific."

Additionally, executives said, Delta expects to reach a partnership deal with Korean Air in the next 30 days. Ongoing construction means Seoul's Incheon International Airport will be "the best gateway to all Asian cities," Hauenstein said. The fleet changes and implementation of the partnership mean that "we can take a step function in the Pacific starting next year."

The Pacific accounts for about 10% of Delta revenue, Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said.

3. Dividend Increase and Share Buyback

Delta said Thursday it will raise its dividend by 50% to $1.22 a share, starting in the September quarter, and it will authorize a new $5 billion share repurchase program starting as soon as the current $5 billion share repurchase program ends in the third quarter.

Jacobson said Delta has repurchased 18% of its shares since 2015. "We believed wholeheartedly that the stock is consistently undervalued," he said.

With the increase, Delta's dividend will be 2.44%, compared with the aggregate yield for the S&P 500 of 2.01%, according to FactSet.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.