Delta Reports 8,000 Infected Employees Amid Flight Cancellations

By on
Delta Air Lines has avoided layoffs so far, but could begin furloughs next month if no agreement is reached with the pilots union
Delta Air Lines has avoided layoffs so far, but could begin furloughs next month if no agreement is reached with the pilots union AFP / Robyn Beck

Delta Air Lines reported Thursday that it lost over $408 million in the last quarter of 2021 due to challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Atlanta-based airline said that it lost out on profits over flight cancellations that mounted during and after the holiday season. The emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that was detected last November in southern Africa complicated travel worldwide, but mounting infections and restrictions took a renewed toll on the airline industry. 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said 8,000 employees contracted COVID-19 in the last four weeks, adding to the complications it was already experiencing. It was estimated that cancellations have begun to decrease, but the spate of canceled bookings and flights cost $75 million. 

“It was the most difficult holiday operation we’ve ever experienced,” Bastian said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has taken a toll on airlines that prompted flashbacks of the early days of the pandemic when the entire industry was nearly ground to a halt. Besides Delta, United Airlines also confirmed that 3,000 employees had tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly a third of its staff at Newark Liberty International Airport called in sick in a single day, cutting into its operations. 

Actions by U.S.-based airlines to address the shortage have proven controversial. Multiple executives lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cut its recommended quarantine period for those who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 to five days, a move adopted by the agency. Union workers were despondent, accusing Delta of trying to pressure employees into returning to work early despite COVID.  

Bastian maintained that there was still some optimism to be seen in the last quarter’s results. He said that employee infections with COVID-19 are falling rapidly and its operations have been returning to a normal workflow. In a sign of this, Bastian noted to the Journal that only 1% of total flights were canceled in the last week. 

“We feel like the worst is behind us, hopefully,” said Bastian. 

Join the Discussion