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Delta Airlines (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report is getting ready for oil at $70 a barrel.

"We've got to make sure the business is positioned to perform with $70 oil," Delta Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said Tuesday at an investor conference. "That's important -- that is a strong sign of discipline.

With prices "poised to touch $50 here pretty soon, the reality is we know oil prices are going to be higher," he said. "Nobody, even the lower-for-longer-thesis believers, think that {the current price} is going to be sustained for more than a couple of years."

It's not impossible to sustain high margins and high profits with higher oil prices, Jacobson said. After all, he said, "We were making record profits at $100 oil. As you can tell from our margin guide, we're optimistic."

On Monday, Delta raise its annual operating margin goal by 300 basis points to between 17% and 19% from between 14% and 16%. Additionally, Delta said Monday that it will cut second-half capacity growth by a percentage point, so that capacity will grow 2.5% rather than 3.5%.

Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures closed Tuesday up 1% at $48.31 a barrel, while Brent crude closed up 31 cents at $49.28 after hitting a six-month high of $49.58.

Jacobson said Delta remains committed to reaching positive growth in passenger revenue per available seat mile. For April, Delta reported that PRASM dipped 4% during the month, several percentage points better than its key competitors' PRASM.

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"The immediate challenge before us is the unit revenue challenge," he said. "That's why you see us taking the capacity actions we're taking and really trying to reach that goal of getting back to positive RASM as quickly as we can.

"Demand remains strong," he said. "The challenge for us is {that} the RASM trajectory is kind of pushed out a little bit from believing it would be {positive} at the end of last year. Now we think certainly in the second half of 2016."

Speaking at the same investor conference, American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report President Scott Kirby said that American is also focused on reporting positive RASM, but that is easier said than done. "There {are} lots of levers we are pulling but they unfortunately don't happen overnight," Kirby said.

However, rising fuel prices have a bright side, Kirby noted, since, "as fuel prices go up, revenues will also go up."

Jacobson also told analysts Tuesday that Delta has set the bar high with its outstanding performance, including a 99.9% completion factor in April, which has enabled Delta to secure a 110% revenue premium.

"Now that we raised the bar on our own performance, the expectations are higher," Jacobson said. "If you later take it away, it will be worse than if you never had it before.

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