Delta predicts profits as travel demand and fares rise despite omicron

Delta Air Lines said Thursday that travel demand – and fares – were growing in the fourth quarter despite the omicron Covid option, and that it expects to post pre-tax profits of about $ 200 million over the last three months of the year.

The Atlanta-based airline’s fourth-quarter revenue is likely to be 26% below its 2019 level, when it brought in $ 11.44 billion, according to a securities statement ahead of its first personal investor day since the pandemic.

Unit revenues over the next two weeks in December will grow “by no small amount compared to 2019,” CEO Ed Bastian said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street”.

Delta executives will lay out a plan for the company to increase profits next year and surpass pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to the statement.

Delta shares gained about 1% in early trading on Thursday.

Other airlines also noted strong demand for vacation travel, despite omicron.

United Airlines on Monday said it expects to carry more travelers on average over Christmas and New Years than on Thanksgiving.

Bastian told CNBC that business travel is around 60% of the 2019 level and is likely to remain in that range “for the next couple of months,” as the new option is likely to delay major companies’ plans to return to the office. Travel demand for small businesses is around 75% of pre-pandemic levels, exceeding the demand for travel for large companies.

Bastian also said 97% of Delta’s roughly 80,000 employees are vaccinated. The airline, like other major carriers, is a federal contractor and must fully vaccinate personnel unless they receive a medical or religious exemption by January 4.

In November, Delta began charging unvaccinated employees over $ 200 a month for the company’s health coverage.

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