Delta slashes capacity, parks up to 300 jets amid ‘unprecedented’ coronavirus impact

Mar 13, 2020

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Delta Air Lines is taking drastic steps in self-preservation as it faces what CEO Ed Bastian calls an “unprecedented” impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Atlanta-based carrier will cut system capacity by 40% over the “next few months,” suspend all flying to continental Europe for at least 30 days, and park up to 300 aircraft in an effort to mitigate the travel slowdown, Bastian told employees in a memo Friday. Delta will also cut capital investments by at least $2 billion and is offering staff voluntary unpaid leave.

“The speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we’ve seen – and we’ve seen a lot in our business,” he said. “We are moving quickly to preserve cash and protect our company. And with revenues dropping, we must be focused on taking costs out of our business.”

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Delta’s moves are by far the most drastic taken yet by a U.S. carrier amid the rapidly growing crisis from the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Other airlines, including American Airlines and United Airlines, have cut capacity and parked some planes, but neither had taken as drastic steps as Delta by early Friday afternoon.

The magnitude of Delta’s capacity cut is equivalent to removing an airline about the size of Air Canada from the skies, based on 2019 numbers.

Bastian did not say what 300 jets Delta plans to park during the crisis. However, airline executives did say on Tuesday that they were parking both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft, and were considering retiring Delta’s fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-88s and MD-90s early.

Related: US airline execs warn coronavirus impact ‘could be worse than 9/11’ downturn

Delta had 898 aircraft, ranging from the Boeing 717 to the Airbus A350, in its mainline fleet at the end of December, its latest fleet plan shows. It contracted another 442 regional jets with affiliate carriers.

“The situation is fluid and likely to be getting worse,” Bastian said in the memo. “[But] Delta remains better-positioned to weather a storm of this magnitude than ever before in our history… We will get through this, and taking strong, decisive action now will ensure that we are properly positioned to recover our business when customers start to travel again.”

Featured image courtesy bradleypjohnson via Flickr.

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