Delta Air Lines Posts $6.9 Billion Q3 Loss As Global Passenger Traffic Plummets

Delta Airlines said costs linked to the coronavirus pandemic lead to $4 billion in charges that ate into its third quarter profits, triggering an overall loss of $6.9 billion.

Delta Air Lines Inc.  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report posted a wider-than-expected third quarter loss Tuesday as the crippling costs of the coronavirus pandemic continue to hammer the airline industry's bottom line.

Delta pegged its loss for the three months ending in September at $8.47 per share as revenues fell 75.6% from the same period last year to just $3.06 billion as flights around the country, and around the world, remain largely grounded amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Delta said its adjusted loss for the quarter was $3.30 cents per share, or $2.3 billion, although that figure excluded around $4 billion of charges linked to the pandemic, including costs linked to involuntary layoffs.

"While our September quarter results demonstrate the magnitude of the pandemic on our business, we have been encouraged as more customers travel and we are seeing a path of progressive improvement in our revenues, financial results and daily cash burn," said CEO Ed Bastian. "The actions we are taking now to take care of our people, simplify our fleet, improve the customer experience, and strengthen our brand will allow Delta to accelerate into a post-COVID recovery."  

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Delta Air Lines shares were marked 2.4% lower in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $31.87 each, a move that trims the stock's six-month gain to around 37%.

Last month, the airline sector's main international lobbyist said global passenger traffic is likely to be at least two-thirds lower than it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Air Transport Association cut is 2020 forecast again Tuesday, and now predicts full-year traffic to be 66% lower than 2019 levels, following what it called 'hugely depressed' traffic levels in August that were impacted by new travel restrictions linked to the resurgence of coronavirus infections in Europe and North America.

Delta said today it doesn't expect traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two years.