The 90,000 staff working for Virgin Atlantic’s US partner Delta Air Lines will receive a record $1.6 billion in profit sharing after an “outstanding” performance in 2019.

The airline will make the payout on February 14 after achieving full-year pre-tax profits of $6.2 billion, with earnings per share of $7.30 rising by almost a third over the previous year.

The performance came as revenue rose by 7.5% to $47 billion.

Chief executive Ed Bastian said: “2019 was a truly outstanding year on all fronts – the best in Delta’s history operationally, financially and for our customers.

“Our people, and their commitment to bringing best-in-class travel experiences to our 200 million customers, are the foundation for our success.

“I’m pleased to recognize their outstanding performance with a record $1.6 billion in profit sharing for 2019.”

He added: “As we enter 2020, demand for travel is healthy and our brand preference is growing, positioning Delta to deliver another year of strong results, including earnings per share of $6.75 to $7.75.”

More: Government to ‘defer’ Flybe’s £106m APD bill

Delta profits take off as rivals suffer from B737 Max grounding

Delta president Glen Hauenstein added: “We delivered $47 billion in revenue in 2019, a more than $3 billion increase when adjusted over prior year, while sustaining a revenue premium to the industry of more than 110%.

“Demand trends remain healthy and we expect momentum to continue in 2020, with revenue growth of 5% to 7% in the March quarter.”

On the same day as it announced its profit share, a  Delta aircraft returning to Los Angeles to make an emergency dumped jet fuel on schools.

The Boeing 777 heading to Shanghai with more then 140 passengers on board was forced to return to the airport in California due to an engine problem.

At least 60 people, many of them children, were reported to have been treated for skin irritation and breathing problems.

Delta said: “Shortly after take-off, Flight 89 from LAX [Los Angeles] to Shanghai experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX.

“The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight.

“Delta is in touch with Los Angeles World Airports and the LA County Fire Department as well as community leaders, and shares concerns regarding reports of minor injuries to adults and children at schools in the area.”

A US Federal Aviation Administration spokesman told Reuters: “The FAA is thoroughly investigating the circumstances behind this incident. There are special fuel-dumping procedures for aircraft operating into and out of any major US airport.

“These procedures call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomises and disperses before it reaches the ground.”