More than 13,000 Delta employees volunteer for unpaid leave

The airline is burning through $50 million in cash a day

More than 13,000 Delta Air Lines employees have volunteered to take unpaid leave, and the company is taking out billions of dollars in loans as travel plummets and borders close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees that the company faces "the greatest economic challenge in our history" and is burning $50 million in cash a day in spite of the steps it has taken.

The airline now expects second quarter revenues to decline by $10 billion, down 80% from a year ago.

“It’s also clear, 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,” Bastian wrote.

Atlanta-based Delta has 90,000 employees, including more than 36,000 in Georgia.

While Bastian told employees he is grateful for those who are taking unpaid leave, he added that “we could use more, so please seriously consider whether this is the right short-term decision for you and your family.”

Some employees may want to take leave to minimize their exposure by going to work at airports or on planes, or to care for children out of school.

The company is also taking out $2.6 billion in loans and drawing down $3 billion under existing credit lines.

Amid criticism of airlines’ stewardship of their profits as they lobby for federal relief, Bastian wrote that the company is suspending its share repurchases and suspending future dividend payments.