MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Delta Air Lines reported a first-quarter profit on Wednesday as gains from hedging its fuel costs made up for losses in its day-to-day operations.

The first three months of the year are usually the weakest for airlines because fewer people fly. Delta would have lost money, but its financial bets on fuel were showing a gain of $151 million when the quarter ended.

Delta’s net income was $124 million, or 15 cents per share. Revenue rose 9 percent to $8.41 billion.

Minus that and other items, Delta would have lost $39 million, or 5 cents per share. Analysts had been expecting a loss of 4 cents per share.

In a note to workers, Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson noted the much-smaller operating loss. “While any loss is disappointing, this was the best March quarter that Delta has generated since 2000, and clear evidence that we are on the right path with the changes we are making to our business.”

Fuel hedges are bets on the price movement of products such as oil and gasoline. They help airlines smooth out the ups and downs of jet fuel purchases. Keep in mind that Delta’s first-quarter gains are paper profits. They could turn to losses before the hedging contracts close.

During last year’s first quarter, Delta Air Lines Inc. lost $318 million, or 38 cents per share.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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