UPDATE 2-Delta posts net loss on charges, remains cautious
* Weak revenue, charges result in net loss
* EPS ex-items 6 cents; Street view loss 5 cents
* Shares fall 4.9 percent (Adds revenue figures, executive comment)
WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) reported a third-quarter loss, citing special charges and weak passenger revenue, and said it remained cautious about the U.S. economy, sending its shares down nearly 5 percent.
The company, which posted a surprise profit before items, saw encouraging revenue and booking trends in the fourth quarter, Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson said in a statement.
Other airlines reporting results this week have expressed similar views, unable to clearly see whether industry demand, especially business travel, is ready to rebound.
Delta, which bought Northwest Airlines in October 2008 to form the world's biggest carrier, said its loss was $161 million, or 19 cents per share, including $212 million in special charges.
Excluding the charges, the company reported a profit of 6 cents per share. Analysts on average expected a loss of 5 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
President Edward Bastian said in a statement that the recession "drove a significant revenue decline" for the quarter, a trend seen at other big carriers reporting results this week.
Operating revenue declined 21 percent, with revenue per passenger mile down 17 percent, which is consistent with big rivals in the June-September period.
Delta, Bastian said, will continue to restrain capacity and aggressively control costs to "effectively manage this." The company plans to cut capacity by 3 percent in 2010.
Lower fuel prices helped offset a sharp increase in operating costs due to the Northwest merger, the company said.
Delta ended the quarter with $5.8 billion in unrestricted liquidity.
The company's shares were down 4.9 percent at $7.92 in morning New York Stock Exchange trading. (Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)