Why Delta's CEO Is Optimistic About Leisure, Business Travel: 'There's Enormous Pent-Up Demand'

Delta Air Lines, Inc. DAL CEO Ed Bastian is expecting business travel to largely return. 

"By the end of next year, I think we’ll be back to 80% to 90% of where we were before the pandemic," Bastian said in recent remarks to the Detroit Economic Club. 

Delta CEO's COVID-19 Recovery Projections: Taking an optimistic stance, Bastian said Delta has hired 8,000 employees this year.

Delta is projecting a “40% overall load factor by May and up to 90% load factor by July” of 2022, he said. 

Load factor is the percentage of seats used and is a critical measure of the health of any airline.

While Delta and others have faced major setbacks during the coronavirus pandemic, Bastian said he's extremely proud of his team and the progress that had already been made.

With much ambiguity still plaguing the industry and what the future holds, Bastian was frank about challenges and obstacles during the Oct. 29 talk at the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit, discussing many points from vaccine mandates to the sentiments within the overall industry outside of Delta.

"There's enormous pent-up demand, but [the airline industry] is still recovering."
Travelers Return to Airports: In terms of capacity in individual airports, Bastian said that “we’re already back to 80% in Detroit.”

Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is the largest airport in Michigan and is an important hub for Delta and other airlines such as Spirit Airlines Incorporated SAVE and Southwest Airlines Co LUV.

The airport is used for a significant number of international flights and connections. Bastian said he's confident about the ability of Delta to recover and move forward in world travel.

“By the spring and summer I think you’re going to see a lot of international travel. I think the summer of 2022 is going to look like domestic travel in 2021”, he said. “Our world needs to be together.”

Related Link: Check Out What Whales Are Doing With DAL

Bastian On Remote Work’s Effects: Remote work has changed the dynamics of business travel, but Bastian said it's not necessarily negative.

Delta has seen the ability for many workers to be remote as an opportunity for them to travel more and work from unique destinations.

Many business travelers may be taking advantage of remote work to travel for “work-cations,” he said. 
"Having Zoom meetings, etc. — it actually allows you to take your office with you. It doesn’t inhibit mobility, it enables mobility.”

Related Link: Delta Air Lines: Q3 Earnings Insights

Delta CEO Ed Bastian speaks in Detroit. Photo by Jeff Kowalsky. 

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