Delta chief executive Ed Bastian called 2020 the toughest year in the company’s history after it announced a $12.4 billion loss.
The business had the unfortunate distinction of being the first major airline to show its yearly results and the huge deficit comes after record revenue and operating profits in 2019.
However, Bastian presented a bullish prediction that Delta could return to profitability in the second half of this year.
“I think by the time the spring comes, more of the world will have confidence in getting back out, not just to travel but in public life in general,” he said. “It’s totally dependent on the deployment of the vaccines and confidence being restored.
“I want to thank the Delta people who have risen to the occasion, focusing on delivering results for all of our stakeholders by putting our customers at the centre of our recovery. While our challenges continue in 2021, I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery and a turning point that results in an even stronger Delta returning to revenue growth, profitability and free cash generation.”
So far, US airlines have reported a combined loss of $24.2 billion, excluding special items, across the first three quarters of 2020.
Last week, World of Aviation reported how the COVID-19 pandemic led to 41 per cent fewer commercial flights globally in 2020 than 2019, according to Flightradar24.
The data – the most authoritative released yet – also revealed total flights including freight were down 27 per cent.
“Commercial flights were down 41.7 per cent overall in 2020, bottoming out in mid-April and making a moderate recovery through mid-August before the pace slowed,” said Flightradar24 on its blog.
“Helped by holiday travel at the end of the year, commercial traffic in December was only down 36.5 per cent from 2019. Commercial traffic grew 9.2 per cent in December over November (compared to 3.4 per cent growth in the same period in 2019).
“The total number of flights tracked by Flightradar24 decreased by 27 per cent in 2020, coming in at just shy of 50 million flights for the year. December flights were down 19 per cent below 2019 levels. The total number of flights tracked increased by 2.3 per cent from November to December.”