Delta Air Lines, which now owns the refinery in Trainer, says Hurricane Sandy delayed the start of its new operation there.

Instead of generating a modest profit in the first quarter, the plant will have a $50 million to $60 million loss.

The good news: The pipelines are back online, and the distribution outlets "are in check," president Edward Bastian told analysts at Delta's investor day in New York on Wednesday.

Production scheduled for 2013 at Delta subsidiary Monroe Energy L.L.C. will come online by the end of this month. Delta expects Trainer to generate $280 million in savings next year and refine 80 percent of the airline's domestic jet fuel.

"Sandy threw us a big curveball, starting up a major refinery and having a hurricane hit you the first week that Trainer was fully operational," Bastian said. "We are very optimistic about the future."

Delta CEO Richard Anderson told investors he expected a merger shortly between bankrupt American Airlines and US Airways Group.

"We have been vocal supporters of that transaction" and further consolidation in the industry. In 2008, Delta merged with Northwest Airlines, and two years later, United Airlines combined with Continental.

"The last piece of the puzzle is American and US Airways," Anderson said.

Analysts said Delta's announcement Tuesday that it would buy a 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways of the U.K. to capture more New York-to-London business travelers put more pressure on US Airways and American to merge.

Both carriers "need additional market mass" to remain competitive with industry giants United and Delta, airline analyst Ray Neidl of Maxim Group L.L.C. wrote in a client note. "We believe the odds of a merger with US Airways before [American] exits bankruptcy has increased to a 75 percent possibility."

Late Tuesday and Wednesday, the pilots' unions for American and US Airways said they had been invited by the unsecured-creditors committee to join the confidential merger discussions under way between American and US Airways.

With both pilot groups participating, "we believe this may give additional momentum to the move toward a possible merger," Neidl wrote.

Industry sources have put an $8 billion value on the combined airline, with American's creditors getting 70 percent ownership in the new carrier and US Airways' shareholders 25 percent to 30 percent, Neidl wrote.

The new airline would be called American and based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

Vicki Bryan, a bond analyst with Gimme Credit L.L.C., wrote in a client update Wednesday that with pilots from both airlines "actively involved in deciding [American's] fate, we feel more confident than ever that the US Airways' bid will be accepted, perhaps by Christmas."

"We continue to believe a merger with US Airways" with CEO Doug Parker at the helm would "create the best chance to build an airline with sufficient scale to compete effectively against Delta and United," she wrote.

American's flight attendants, pilots, and mechanics have all agreed to tentative contracts with US Airways "and remain firmly committed to the merger," Bryan wrote.

At Wednesday's Delta investor presentation, the airline said it was talking with producers in North Dakota about bringing crude oil by rail to Trainer from the Bakken oil field in the upper Midwest.

"There's little doubt we will start producing out of Trainer Bakken crude at some point in 2013," Bastian said. Delta intends to invest in a rail unloading facility at the refinery to get crude in and jet fuel out to the Midwest.