Delta CEO Outlines Carrier’s Safety Guidelines

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian has sent a letter to the carrier’s customer base, telling passengers that as the world starts to reopen for business the safety of travelers remains paramount.

“That’s why layers of protection are now in place at every touchpoint of your journey, from beginning to end,” Bastian wrote.

Bastian has been proactive in keeping customers apprised of what Delta has been doing to battle the coronavirus; this was his 11th piece of communication since the crisis began earlier this year.

Though airlines have somewhat relaxed their enforcement of passengers wearing a mask, Bastian nonetheless said the safety procedures start with check-in, where fliers will be required to wear a mask until they reach their destination. Delta employees will be wearing them as well, and the airline will provide a mask to passengers who ask for one if they do not have their own.

Surfaces are wiped down throughout the day, starting with kiosks and baggage stations. Plexiglass shields will be in place at Delta check-in and gate counters by the end of May, and customers will be encouraged to maintain a safe distance with decals at check-in, at the gate and on all Delta-owned jet bridges.

“At the gate, you’ll find gate areas and jet bridges disinfected with electrostatic spraying. Before you board, our teams follow an extensive cleaning checklist with authority to hold the flight for additional cleaning if they aren’t satisfied,” Bastian wrote. “This includes safely sanitizing each aircraft with electrostatic spraying before every flight and wiping down tray tables and seatback screens. Boarding will occur from back to front and be limited to 10 customers at a time to minimize your contact with others. You will receive snack bags with a sanitizing wipe at boarding on select flights to reduce onboard service touchpoints.”

More importantly, Bastian said Delta will maintain the integrity of social distancing and will cap capacity at 60 percent for each flight, including blocking the middle seats from use. The air on all aircraft is completely recirculated 10 to 30 times per hour with fresh, outside air or through industrial-grade HEPA filters with similar performance to those used in hospital operating rooms and other highly sensitive environments. Announcements will also encourage passengers to take time when deplaning to create distance for those ahead to exit.

“We are exceeding all travel guidelines set by the U.S. Travel Association, and you have my commitment that we will consistently deliver,” the CEO wrote.

Bastian noted that Delta has processed more than $1.5 billion in cash refunds since January, including $182 million so far this month. He asked for patience as customer service representatives “continue to handle an enormous volume of calls each day.”

If you have travel booked through Sept. 30, 2020, or existing eCredits from flights March 1 through Sept. 30, 2020, there are no change fees to reschedule your trip through Sept. 30, 2022. In addition, tickets purchased between March 1 and May 31, 2020, can be changed without a change fee for a year from your date of purchase.

“While this crisis has made us distance ourselves, the isolation has brought a sense of togetherness as we check in on one another,” Bastian said. “I will continue to communicate with you and ask that you share any feedback you have. You can rest assured that we are taking every step to keep you safe throughout your journey when you are ready to fly with us again.”

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Delta Latam sign joint venture agreement

Delta Air Lines and Latam are moving forward with their partnership plans, having signed a trans-American joint venture agreement that will combine the carriers’ networks between North and South America, pending regulatory approval.

The agreement is the latest step in the carriers’ partnership, announced last September, which already has included codeshare agreements, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and collocation at airports in New York and São Paulo. CEOs of both carriers said despite the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the aviation industry, the alliance still is a priority.

“While we remain focused on navigating the Covid-19 crisis and protecting the safety and well-being of our passengers and employees, we also have to look to the future to ensure the best possible customer experience and support the long-term sustainability of the group,” Latam CEO Roberto Alvo said in a statement.

Source: Business Travel News

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Delta First US Airline Approved to Transport Goods in Passenger Cabin

Delta Air Lines recently received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to store essential goods in overhead bin space of widebody aircraft, becoming the first U.S. carrier to secure clearance.

According to Delta Cargo, the approved flights will be operated with aircraft that would otherwise be parked due to reduced demand during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and are crucial to keeping all-important supply chains open amid the crisis.

“We thank the FAA for their cooperation in allowing us to increase our cargo capacity,” said Delta Cargo Vice President Shawn Cole in a statement accompanying Thursday’s news. “This really has been a joint effort across our business and will enable us to utilize the overhead bin space to move even more vital medical and protective equipment on each flight for the COVID-19 pandemic efforts.”

The airline recently began operating cargo-only services to quickly transport essential goods, medical supplies and other items and plans to continue to “explore solutions for cargo-only transport,” including increasing storage space by using and possibly removing seats.

Earlier this week, Delta announced that it suffered its first quarterly loss in five years and anticipates the second quarter to produce even worse financial results due to decreased demand and travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Meanwhile, Delta CEO Ed Bastian reportedly told employees that he believes it’ll be two to three years before the carrier’s business recovers from the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

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Delta CEO: 'We still haven't seen the bottom'

Delta Air Lines expects revenue over the next three months to be down 90%, with no end of the industry’s troubles in sight.

a red and white plane sitting on top of a grass covered field: KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 03: Planes belonging to Delta Air Lines sit idle at Kansas City International Airport on April 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. carriers reported an enormous drop in bookings amid the spread of the coronavirus and are waiting for a government bailout to fight the impact. Delta lost almost $2 billion in March and parked half of its fleet in order to save money. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“Even as Delta is burning more than $60 million in cash every day, we know we still haven’t seen the bottom,” said CEO Ed Bastian warned employees on Friday. He said April’s schedule will be down “at least 80% smaller than originally planned, with 115,000 flights canceled.”

As an example of the drop in traffic he said that on March 28, Delta carried only 38,000 customers, versus its normal late-March Saturday of traffic of 600,000.

“I wish I could predict this would end soon, but the reality is we simply don’t know how long it will take before the virus is contained and customers are ready to fly again,” he said.

Airline fan Buffett dumping shares

In a separate filing Berkshire Hathaway, disclosed that it sold 18% of its stake in Delta earlier this week, dumping nearly 13 million shares for $314 million.

Berkshire also disclosed it had sold 2.3 million shares of Southwest Airlines for $74 million. That only represented 4% of Berkshire’s Southwest holdings though.

Berkshire and its chairman Warren Buffett have been major investors in a number of airlines in recent years. It previously held 11% of Delta’s shares, and 10.3% of Southwest before the recent sales, along with 10% of American and 9% of United.

Berkshire is among the three largest shareholders of all four airlines. Buffett typically does not sell shares simply due to a decline in price or difficult economic times.

Other airlines also see tough times ahead

Delta wasn’t the only airline issuing a grim outlook for business Friday evening. United and JetBlue did as well.

United said that its average revenue in March was $100 million a day less than a year ago. It also cut April capacity by 80%, and said that it still only expected to fill a small portion of the seats it flies – a percentage between the low teens and single digits. United filled 84% of its seats with paying customers throughout 2019. An airline typically needs to sell at least two-thirds of the available seats on a flight in order for it to be profitable.

United said because of the low traffic it expects to make even deeper cuts in the May schedule and it will continue to cut the schedule until it sees signs of a recovery in demand. But it’s not expecting any significant rebound soon. It said revenue for the last three months of this year is still expected to be down 30% from the final quarter of 2019.

JetBlue said that it expects to fly only 7,000 customers a day in April and possibly in May, compared to the normal 120,000 it would handle. It said it was taking in just $1 million a day in bookings and ancillary fees, down from $22 million during April last year. And it is issuing $11 million per day of travel bank credits for canceled bookings.

Airlines file for help

Bastian confirmed that Delta filed Friday for its share of $25 billion in federal grants for the airline industry approved by Congress last week. Most other airlines confirmed that they, too, filed or planned to file for such support. Airlines that did not file by Friday stood the risk that there would not be money available to them when they did.

There’s another $25 billion in loan support available as part of the package. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told his employees a week ago that American stood to get $12 billion of the $50 billion of help available because of it is the world’s largest airline.

United, Southwest, JetBlue and Hawaiian airlines disclosed their requests for help in statements or company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sun County, Spirit Airlines, Alaska and Allegiant Airlines told CNN on that they had filed.

The small regional airlines that operate as feeders for the major carriers also all filed for help, according to Faye Malarkey Black, the CEO of the Regional Airline Association. That does not include the two regional airlines that already announced plans to go out of business.

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Delta, United announce change fee updates for flights amid coronavirus concerns

Delta Air Lines on Monday said it will allow travelers holding tickets to any destination in March and April to change or cancel their flight without paying a hefty change fee, regardless of when they bought the ticket.

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300 lands at Portland International Airport in December 2018.

© Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren for USA TODAY
A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-300 lands at Portland International Airport in December 2018.

The broad fee waiver, the first by a major U.S airline, provides travelers holding nonrefundable tickets more flexibility as trips are canceled due to the coronavirus crisis.

“As concerns continue about the coronavirus known as COVID-19, we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees,” Delta said in announcing the policy. “We have adjusted flight schedules to affected areas, waived many change fees and are working with customers to adjust travel plans, using relationships with other airlines when needed.”

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United followed suit Monday night, announcing on its website and on social media that the airline would waive change fees for the next 12 months for flights booked between March 3 and March 31, 2020.

United said customers will be permitted to change free of charge to a flight of equal or lesser value up to a year from the original ticket issue date; if the flight is priced higher, passengers must pay the fare difference.

Delta and other airlines have been sharply criticized this month for only waiving change fees for travelers buying new tickets, a policy designed to boost sagging ticket sales. Southwest is the only major airline that routinely does not charge a change fee.

Last week, Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent letters to the CEOs of Delta, United and American, asking them to waive change and cancellation fees for all flights not just flights purchased in March.

Blumenthal said the fee waivers issued by American, Delta and others were “welcome steps” but too limited because they only cover travelers buying new plane tickets. Travelers bought tickets for spring break last fall would not be covered, for example.

“Airlines should enable consumers to adjust their travel plans – regardless of when those decisions are made or when a passenger’s ticket was purchased,” he said in the letter to American CEO Doug Parker.

Delta changed its policy late last week to cover international flights, regardless of when the flight was booked, but not domestic flights.

The waiver announced Monday covers flights to all Delta destinations. It covers passengers with tickets for travel through April 30. Travelers who know the dates they want to change to can do do without paying change fees that start at $200 per person. Any fare difference since the flight was booked will apply.

Passengers who don’t know when they want to travel again, can cancel their flight and receive a voucher for the value of their ticket. They will not have to pay a change fee when they redeem the voucher, which is the standard practice.

Travelers due to travel in May or beyond will have to pay a change fee unless Delta extends the policy. 

Lindy Lin, a federal investigator who lives in Los Angeles, is hopeful American and other airlines will match Delta’s move.

Lin is supposed to fly to Miami this weekend for her bachelorette party but the group decided they don’t want to fly because some members have kids or frail relatives at home.

The party is being moved to Palm Desert, California, a 2½ hour trip by car.

Lin said she is having trouble getting American to waive the change fee on her $430 ticket from Miami to Los Angeles.

“They want to take $200 of that,” she said, leaving her with just a $230 ticket. “How absurd.”

Taking a cue from Blumenthal’s plea to airlines, Lin started a petition to get American to change its change fee policies during the outbreak.

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