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Delta CEO says testing, vaccinations are 'the answer' as industry eyes pandemic recovery

March 09, 2021
3 min read
Delta Air Lines Airbus A350-900 aircraft as seen on final approach landing at Amsterdam Schiphol AMS EHAM airport in the Netherlands. The Delta Airlines modern and advanced wide-body airplane has the registration N512DN and is powered by 2x RR jet engines. Delta DL DAL is ranked the second-largest airline in the world with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia US and is a member of SkyTeam airline aviation alliance. Delta is connecting with transatlantic flights the United States of America with the Netherlands and Europe during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic era. July 2, 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Delta CEO says testing, vaccinations are 'the answer' as industry eyes pandemic recovery
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Delta Air Lines sees the path for a return to travel coming in the form of a mass vaccination rollout and a focus on long-term growth and planning.

In an interview at ITB Berlin, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said he supports the U.S. government's move to require testing or vaccination — rather than quarantine — for a return to international travel.

"Tests and vaccinations are the answer, not quarantine," Bastian said. "Vaccination will be the ultimate form of entry into international markets."

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However, that reentry into international markets may still be a way off. Bastian said that widespread international travel demand is still at least a year away.

In the interim, Delta is focusing primarily on domestic U.S. flying — and more specifically, where customers want to go. The airline has revamped its route map for domestic recovery to focus on leisure travelers, rather than where business flyers need to go.

Related: 5 takeaways from Delta’s CEO on the future of travel

"Customers are anxious to go to sun destinations, whether it's in Florida or Arizona," Bastian said. He also noted that some winter ski destinations, such as those in Colorado, are booming. "We're not optimized for business travel right now."

Bastian said that Delta's hub at Salt Lake City (SLC) is close to pre-COVID-19 capacity levels, and South Florida is close as well.

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Meanwhile, Delta's coastal cities, such as Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, have been much behind in that domestic recovery, as business travelers largely remained at home.

In the long-term, Delta is planning on the evolution of its business, including adapting its fleet and how it works with its partner airlines.

"Long-term, we're going to get back to what we looked like before, but it will be different," Bastian said. "We've changed so much — boarding planes, cleaning planes and how we clean on board our aircraft."

Delta has committed to blocking middle seats through at least April, and Bastian said the carrier will make a decision on whether or not to extend that policy as spring approaches.

Elsewhere Delta has changed, in the past year, the airline has retired more than 200 aircraft — including its MD88s, MD90s, some 717s and long-haul 777s. It's focusing on the Airbus A350 as its long-haul international flagship product, though Delta has begun conversations with Airbus and Boeing to come up with "good alternatives" to the medium-range Boeing 757s and 767s in its fleet.

Related: Why is Delta disclosing Boeing 717, 767 retirement plans 5 years in advance?

Looking forward, Bastian sees the return to international travel as an important factor — and one that it's going to continue to emphasize with its partner airlines such as LATAM and Virgin Atlantic. Bastian said that Delta will continue to support those airlines and offer them strategic advice.

But for Delta itself, the carrier's long-term growth strategy is international, not domestic, and it continues to see itself in a strong position to serve that market.

"We'll get through this pandemic," Bastian said. "It's impacted us. It's changed us. But we'll get through it."

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023