Delta Air Lines lost $755 million in the fourth quarter, bringing its losses to nearly $12.4 billion in 2020, a year in which the airline industry was battered by a pandemic that crippled air travel.
“Our December quarter results capped the toughest year in Delta’s history,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive, said in a statement Tuesday morning. “While our challenges continue in 2021, I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery and a turning point that results in an even stronger Delta.”
The airline brought in nearly $4 billion in operating revenue in the last three months of the year, a 65 percent decline from the same quarter a year earlier. But Delta also nearly halved its “daily cash burn,” an approximate measure of spending on core operations and investments, which analysts use to gauge how close a business is to taking in more cash than it is spending.
The distribution of coronavirus vaccines has given Delta and other airlines hope, but a meaningful recovery is not expected until the vaccines are widely administered, which is not expected until at least the second half of the year. During the first three months of 2021, Delta expects scheduled flight capacity to be down about a third and revenue to be 60 to 65 percent lower compared with the same quarter in 2019.
In the earnings announcement, Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president, said the airline expected the year to unfold in three phases: choppy at first, followed by “an inflection point” and then a sustained recovery “as customer confidence gains momentum, vaccinations become widespread and offices reopen.”
Holiday travel provided some relief to the industry, but air travel is still down more than 60 percent compared with last year, according to the latest Transportation Security Administration airport security screening data.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday is expected to outline a $1.9 trillion spending package to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy, with an initial focus on large-scale expansions of the nation’s vaccination program and virus testing capacity, according to two people familiar with the plans.
Mr. Biden will detail his proposal, which he and his economic team have been honing for weeks, in an evening speech in Delaware. The efforts will cover the pandemic, the economy, health care, education, climate change and other domestic priorities, Brian Deese, the incoming director of the National Economic Council, said at the Reuters Next conference on Wednesday.
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