Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian has sent out a memo to staff worldwide, setting out the carrier’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Bastian said  that it had been “an extraordinary few weeks, to say the least”, adding that “Just over a month ago we were celebrating a record Profit-Sharing Day; today we face the greatest economic challenge in our history as the world grapples with the growing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic”.

He thanked over 13,000 employees who had “stepped up” to take voluntary unpaid leave, but said that the firm “could use more, so please seriously consider whether this is the right short-term decision for you and your family”.

June quarter revenues are now expected to be down $10 billion on last year, a reduction of 80 per cent, and Bastian said that “given the underlying damage the virus has created to the overall economy, that demand recovery will take an extended period once the virus is contained”.

He said that the airline is “currently burning roughly $50 million in cash each day”, and has entered into a $2.6 billion secured credit facility, as well as drawing down $3 billion under existing revolving credit facilities.

The International Air Transport Association said this week that airlines will need up to $200 billion in government support to help them survive an industry crisis caused by the coronavirus.

Bastian said “in recent days some critics have argued that the airlines have not been good stewards of our money during our profitable years”, but he refuted this, arguing that Delta’s philosophy has been to put 50 per cent of operating cash flow back into the business, use 30 per cent to pay down debt, and the return the remaining 20 per cent to owners.

Bastian also gave examples of some of the “outstanding work” being carried out by employees, including:

  • Pilots who are coming out to greet our customers and assure them of a clean, safe aircraft and on-time operation.
  • Flight attendants who are maintaining a clean environment, even after customers have boarded, and being extremely sensitive to their concerns and accommodating their needs.
  • Reservations agents who are providing patient, kind and reassuring voices while managing an unprecedented volume of calls.
  • ACS and Cargo agents who are solving customer problems and providing calming voices at the airport, while making sure our operation is cleaner and healthier than ever during a stressful time.
  • Our people in TechOps who are working closely with Network Planning to ensure that our fleet is ready for rapid changes as we adjust our schedule to meet the drop in demand.
  • The professionals in the OCC who are managing our operations amid schedule reductions, tower closures, and a major earthquake near Salt Lake City.
  • Delta people across the organization who are showing a sense of solidarity with our customers and our colleagues that is true to our shared values of empathy, compassion and dignity for all, even in the hardest circumstances.

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