Delta Air Lines CEO Confident Business Travel Will Return

Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta Air Lines, believes that business travel will return once confidence is restored when it comes to flying and meeting face-to-face. The airline boss doesn’t think that virtual meetings will signal the death of the business traveler.

Delta Airlines, COVID-19, Employees
Delta is confident that business travel will return. Photo: Getty Images

The aviation industry is currently facing the biggest challenge of its lifetime. The crisis of unprecedented proportions has even forced the bankruptcy of some large carriers. As travel was frowned upon at the height of the pandemic, many businesses were forced to begin online meetings. However, the CEO of one of America’s largest airlines doesn’t believe this is permanent.

Business travel will return

Delta Air Lines is currently serving around 25% of the passengers that it was this time last year. However, it seems as though for the time being, the focus is on leisure travel. Bastian today told the Washington Post that “Business travel is still greatly reduced.”

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He added that he doesn’t think virtual meetings on services such as Zoom and Skype are a suitable substitute for face to face meetings in the long run. Bastian points out that businesses have been forced to adopt this technology, rather than welcoming it with open arms.

Delta 737-800
Bastian believes that virtual meetings aren’t yet a suitable long-term substitute for face to face meetings. Photo: Getty Images

Bastian told the Washington Post,

“The human spirit needs to–needs to be in person. It’s very hard to draw that same relationship and the collaboration and creativity and spark of ingenuity that the human spirit creates for business. And as businesses start to reopen and start to look at opportunities to grow, and the economies improve, business travel will be the forefront of that.”

Has recovery stalled?

Several times recently, Bastian has commented that recovery of passenger numbers in the United States has stalled. This was a position he maintained when asked by The Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

The daily passenger figures released by the Transportation Security Administration show that while passenger growth was initially reasonably quick, in the past month, growth has stalled. We’ve seen the daily passenger record broken only twice in July, first on the 2nd, and again on 31st.

Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, Business Travel
Passenger recovery has stalled in July. Graph: Simple Flying | Data: TSA

Passenger traffic almost broke the 800,000 passenger threshold on Sunday, falling just short at 799,861 passengers. However, the growth failed to be felt into Monday, with the figure falling once again to 737,235. With the high number of cases currently being seen in the United States, it is unclear when the number will start to rise again, or if it could even begin to fall once more.

While only seeing around 25% of the passengers it had last year, Delta is currently operating 50% of flights. Delta is standing by its policy of leaving middle seats free during the crisis to instill confidence in passengers. Indeed, just the other day, we reported that the airline was now the only one offering the unique selling point between London and New York.

Do you feel confident flying for business right now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!