By Alana Wise


NEW YORK (Reuters) - Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N> said on Wednesday its third-quarter profit fell less than expected as disruptions caused by hurricanes cost the airline less than some investors had feared, sending its stock up slightly.


The No. 2 U.S. carrier by passenger traffic reported a 6 percent dip in net profit, largely due to a $120 million pretax hit from Hurricane Irma in September, which forced it to cancel flights.


Excluding some items, Delta reported adjusted earnings of $1.57 per share, ahead of analysts' average expectation of $1.53, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.


The carrier forecast it would increase its fourth-quarter year-over-year passenger unit revenue by between 2 percent and 4 percent and have an operating margin of between 11 percent and 13 percent.


Its shares were up 0.7 percent at $53.03 on the New York Stock Exchange, their highest since mid-July.

Investors had been worried that the brutal hurricane season, which included three back-to-back storms and resulted in thousands of canceled flights, would have weighed more heavily on the carrier's profitability.

Of the three storms, Hurricane Irma had the most pronounced effect on Delta's operations, resulting in 2,200 canceled flights at airports in Florida, the Caribbean and Delta's hub in Atlanta.

Despite the cancellations, Delta said its quarterly operating revenue rose 5.5 percent to $11.1 billion.

"Having just completed the busiest summer travel season in our history, we have good momentum, a determined team and a solid pipeline of initiatives to grow earnings and margins," Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alana Wise; Editing by W Simon and Bill Rigby)