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During Delta’s earnings call they reported losing less money, making customers happy, and seeing the near-term dominated by leisure travel that doesn’t touch the coasts. Business travel has tripled, but it’s off of a low base. All the forecast good news means they foresee when they’ll stop blocking middle seats.
The brightest spot is their American Express credit card deal – they are beginning to acquire customers again, excited by the performance of the current limited-time offer.
Some key points that were made:
- Delta was losing $18 million per day at the end of September, down from $27 million per day in June. They project to reduce that to $10 – $12 million a day in December. The reduction is cash burn in their model comes largely from betting on increased revenue (they see positive cashflow in the spring). They are now selling $25 million to $30 million a day.
- They hold $21 billion in cash, have paid down some debt, and expect to end the year with over $16 billion, against net debt of $19 billion (and a revolving credit line to draw on). Delta didn’t take CARES Act subsidized loans.
- Delta’s Net Promoter Score was 75 in September, up 22 points compared to before the pandemic. It’s unsurprising when Delta is going farther than competitors cleaning planes (and even addressing cleanliness at security checkpoints in terminals they control) and continuing to block most middle seats.
- Ed Bastian says they will be lifting caps on how many seats they’ll sell on each flight (middle seat blocking) “in the first half of next year.”
- Delta is looking at how they can integrate rapid Covid testing with the check-in and boarding process, but doesn’t see this as something that will become a requirement for domestic travel.
- Corporate sales volume is 15% of 2019 levels, which is consistent with what American Airlines told employees last month, triple earlier levels.
- Travel is much stronger in the interior of the country than on the coasts. Most of Delta’s flying is to and from interior hubs. Destinations affected by quarantine, like New York, are only back to 20% of pre-pandemic levels. This is consistent with what other airlines report.
- Delta called out the “excellent response” to the current co-brand card limited time offer. The partnership was down 20%, and that’s come back and now they’re bringing in new cardmembers.
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months, Offer Expires 10/28/2020. Benefits include your first checked bag free on Delta flights. This is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99 annual fee card. Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card will earn 60,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months, Offer Expires 10/28/2020. Spending on this card can help earn Delta elite status (earn 10,000 MQMs after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion Status).
Benefits include your first checked bag free and a fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®. Cardmembers can pay for Delta Sky Club® access on a per visit basis at $39 per person for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight. This is a $250 annual fee card. Terms Apply. See Rates & Fees.
- Delta is pleased with Thanksgiving and Christmas bookings and is increasing capacity for peak leisure holiday dates while reducing flying anticipated down periods like election week. Several media inquiries have touched on whether airline furloughs (primarily at American and United) would mean flights aren’t available when passengers are ready to fly, and the answer to that is clearly no.
- Delta treated a “$1.3 billion benefit from the CARES Act grant funds” as a special item in the quarter. This isn’t treated as a reimbursement of payroll. The airline has saved $1.9 billion in salary expense from early outs and employee leaves.