Investment firm Barclays on Thursday initiated stock coverage of Delta Air Lines (DAL) with an "Overweight" rating and a $70 price target, representing a 41% upside from Wednesday's closing price.

"A culture driven for respect for customers and employees blended with shrewd capital management has transformed Delta into one of the largest, safest and most profitable airlines in the world," Barclays analyst Brandon Oglenski wrote in a note obtained by CNBC.

Given the Atlanta-based airline's leadership position within the industry, Oglenski is "hard pressed not to have a large representation of Delta shares in the portfolio."

"With continued outperformance on margins, returns and free cash generation relative to peers, we think historical airline valuation is becoming less relevant for Delta specifically," he said. "In our view, a re-rating of Delta's stock is warranted."

Moving forward the firm is expecting a boost to profits driven by domestic and foreign markets, which now designate about 30% of revenue.

"Branded fares, loyalty programs, global alliances, and capital discipline make for a bright future at Delta," Oglenski contended. "Given significant growth in global air travel, especially relative to US expansion in recent years, Delta's international strategy could represent meaningful future upside for the company."

Shares of Delta were sinking lower in afternoon trading on Thursday. 

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