Delta CEO: We Have to Make It Right With Passengers First

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the most important thing in battling the effects of the coronavirus epidemic is to first make things right with its customers.

“We believe that taking care of (the) safety of our customers, as well as our people, is more important than the profits that we forgo by filling up every seat on a plane,” Bastian said during an interview with National Public Radio’s ‘All Things Considered.’ “The bottom line is we’ve got to restore confidence amongst our consumer base in air travel.”

Bastian answered a wide range of questions as part of the interview. They included:

—Asked what will it take to get the daily cash burn, once at $100 million and now at $27 million, down to break even, Bastian said: “We’re flying today somewhere about 25 percent of the schedule that we did last summer. We’ll need … another 10 to 20 points of demand over the next six months to get closer to that break-even level on cash flow. It’ll depend on the direction the virus takes, the direction that—both on therapeutics as well as vaccines—the ability for people to feel confident and the continued taking great care and safety of our customers over the journey.”

—On deciding not to sell middle seats, Bastian replied that “we feel that we’d rather take care and put safety at the top of the priority list. And when we get close to that 60 percent load factor that we’ve referenced, that’ll be our trigger to add more planes and more flights into the schedule, because we have a lot of planes that we can add rather than trying to put more people into the existing [flights]. It’s a decision we’re taking about putting people over profits, absolutely.”

—Asked if Delta would need a second aid package after taking advantage of the CARES Act in March, Bastian was less inclined to take another bailout. “What we really need is instead of more government support, we need demand back. We need a medical cure. We need a vaccine. We need therapeutics. And I think that’s probably where any government focus ought to go,” he said.

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