The omicron variant is affecting international travel but hasn’t yet driven large-scale cancellations for the Christmas period, according to Bastian. However, he expects it will affect domestic demand in early 2022.
The airline plans to restore 85% of its pre-pandemic trans-Atlantic flying next summer, while trans-Pacific flying is still less than 50% of pre-pandemic levels. Travel is still heavily restricted to key markets including China and Japan.
Delta has hired 9,000 employees as domestic leisure travel demand recovered. Bastian said Delta’s hiring is now meeting the company’s needs.
But some regional carriers are facing a shortage of available pilots. As a result, Delta and other major airlines have cut some flights to small towns on small regional jets flown by contracted regional carriers.
“We aren’t able to serve every place that we’d like to,” acknowledged Delta operations chief John Laughter during a Senate commerce committee hearing Wednesday. He expects the situation to improve next year.
Delta also expects to have “meaningful profitability” in 2022. Delta’s results this year included a financial boost from federal CARES Act relief funding.
“As our profitability improves, we are focused on reducing debt and strategically investing to build on our leadership position,” Dan Janki, Delta’s chief financial officer, said in a written statement.
The airline will focus on paying down billions of dollars in debt it took on to survive the pandemic.
The company expects to have “improved earnings power beyond pre-pandemic levels” by 2024. By that year, Bastian hopes Delta will have a record $50 billion in revenue, along with record profitability.