Delta sees recovery picking up pace from end of February after Omicron delay

Lukas Wunderlich /

Delta Air Lines said it was looking forward to a strong spring and summer travel season, even though the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has hit demand and delayed recovery.  

“Omicron is expected to temporarily delay the demand recovery 60 days, but as we look past the peak, we are confident in a strong spring and summer travel season with significant pent-up demand for consumer and business travel,” chief executive Ed Bastian said in a financial results statement on January 13, 2022.  

The chief executive said recovery was expected to pick up pace from President’s Day, which is on February 21, 2022.  

The emergence of the Omicron variant has hit not only demand, but also added to operational woes for US carriers. Many were already suffering from staffing shortages, and have been forced to cancel flights over the Christmas and New Year period after bad weather and rising COVID cases combined.   

“While the rapidly spreading omicron variant has significantly impacted staffing levels and disrupted travel across the industry, Delta’s operation has stabilized over the last week and returned to pre-holiday performance,” Bastian commented.  

For the first quarter of the year to March 31, 2022, Delta said it was planning for capacity to be at around 83-85% of 2019 levels, and expected revenue to reach around 72-76% of pre-pandemic levels.  For the final quarter of 2021, its capacity was at 79% of 2019 levels and revenue was at 74%.  

In terms of financial results for 2021, Delta reported an adjusted pretax loss of $3.4 billion, which excludes benefits of $3.8 billion from government support programs. It had made a profit of $6.2 billion back in 2019.  

Its 2021 operating revenue of $29.9 billion is equivalent to a 36% fall from 2019. Within its total operating revenue, cargo revenue was up 37% on 2019 levels.  

“2021 was a year like no other for Delta, with significant progress in our recovery supported by growing brand preference, enabling us to be the only major U.S. airline to deliver profitability across the second half of the year,” Bastian summarized. 

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