Delta Air Lines says it will take up to 3 years to recover from coronavirus shutdown

ATLANTA — Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines confirmed Wednesday that it lost $534 million in the first three months of the year.

Delta currently employs 33,000 Georgians, making it the largest private employer in the state.

Officials with the company told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston it expects the next three months will be just as bad.

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Two weeks ago, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said he thought it would be two to three years before the airline recovers and he made that announcement public on Wednesday.

He also said when the airline does recover, travelers will notice a smaller run operation.

“I have to say I think it’s OK,” Duluth businessman Bruce LeVell said.

Levell said he has no problem hopping on a plane, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

“All defense of Delta, I think a lot of places have gone above and beyond to create a sterile environment that makes it safe,’” LeVell said.

But LeVell may be the exception.

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In a conference call Wednesday, Bastian said the airline is only carrying about 5% of its normal passenger load.

Revenue plummeted $534 million in the first three months of 2020. Sales will likely be down 90% for the next three.

“This has led to an unprecedented situation where demand for near-term travel has dropped to almost zero in a matter of weeks,” Bastian said.

Monday, Delta received almost $3 billion from the government.

Bastian said he hopes things turn around quickly, but he confirmed something we learned through Delta employees -- it could take three years for the airline to return to precoronavirus air travel and revenue.

“While we all wish we could predict the pace of the recovery, the truth is a recovery will be dictated by our customers feeling safe,” Bastian said.

More than 90,000 people currently work for Delta Air Lines. Companywide, more than 37,000 employees have agreed to unpaid leave.

Bastian said when people do start flying, Delta will have a smaller operation until people are confident air travel is safe.

“Safety will no longer be limited to flight safety, but personal safety as well,” Bastian said.

The $2.7 billion Delta received from the government comes as a combination of direct aid and loans.