ATLANTA ( TheStreet) - Delta ( DAL) kicked off a week of airline earnings reports by reporting its best quarterly profit in a decade, and said it expects continuing unit revenue gains in the current quarter. The world's largest airline set net income excluding items was $549 million, or 65 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated 63 cents. Revenue rose 17% to $8.17 billion; analysts had estimated $8.25 billion. Including items, such as $90 million in profit-sharing expenses, net income was $467 million, or 55 cents a share. In the same quarter a year earlier, including items, the carrier lost $257 million. "Delta's profit this quarter is our best result in a decade and proof that our plan has positioned us well as the economy begins its recovery," said CEO Richard Anderson, in a prepared statement Monday. Passenger revenue per available seat mile rose 19.4%, led by a 36% PRASM increase in the Pacific and a 30% increase in the Atlantic. Looking ahead, President Ed Bastian said the carrier also expects double-digit PRASM gains for the current quarter. "We are seeing strong improvements in these early stages of the economic recovery and believe there's more room for more revenue growth as the economy continues to stabilize," he said. On the cost side, cost per available seat mile excluding fuel and special items was flat during the quarter, despite 1% lower capacity. "Merger synergies and productivity offset cost pressures in the business," said CFO Hank Halter. "Synergies have exceeded our expectations and will be a key factor as we strive to keep our non-fuel unit costs flat for the full year." As of June 30, the carrier had $6 billion in unrestricted liquidity including $4.4 billion in cash. -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte .
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