The CEO of Delta Air Lines said the aviation would take several years before volumes return to 2019 levels unless the entire travel industry comes together to communicate a unified message about safety and trust.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Delta Air Lines CEO, Ed Bastian.

© Flickr/Delta News Hub
Delta Air Lines CEO, Ed Bastian.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said during an interview with SAP Concur president Jim Lucier last week the airline is operating about 50 percent of its domestic schedule and only selling about 60 percent of the seats due to its decision to block middle seats through January 6.

“So while we can get people traveling again I think the question is just broader than our sector of air travel. It’s the travel ecosystem,” Bastian said. “Getting the hotels and getting all aspects of the hospitality business to join arms and continue to drive the same type of safety protocols, the safety message and the confidence in protecting people through will help us all get out and get more comfortable in being on the road.”

Bastian revealed the airline has used the slow period to retire older and less fuel-efficient planes, end operations in unprofitable markets and streamline operations. He said that while some changes are temporary, many will stick around when the coronavirus pandemic ends.

“If the experience of flying was not safe, you would expect our people to be getting sick on board the planes because they live in the airport environment, they live onboard the aircraft,” Bastian continued.

Lucier also spoke to Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, who said occupancy is now in the mid-60 percent in China. He said that while the numbers are skewed, they are an encouraging sign, with at least modest improvement every week in most markets.

Last month, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) were asked about post-COVID 19 plans for recovery and resumption of business in an ongoing survey. More than a third (38 percent) of Active Members have seen an increase in bookings in the last 60 days. Another third (38 percent) have seen no change in bookings during this timeframe, with the remaining 24 percent reporting a decrease in bookings.

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