Delta says domestic travel demand recovered, hits pre-pandemic levels

United and Delta said bookings have recovered better than expected

Delta Air Lines announced that bookings for domestic travel this summer have fully recovered and will even surpass pre-pandemic levels further into the season. 

During a conference call Tuesday, Delta Air Lines President Glen Hauenstein said that bookings for domestic travel would in June have 100% recovered with "with forward-bookings above 2019 levels."

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With widespread coronavirus vaccinations and testing, customers are beginning to regain confidence in travel, allowing them to plan for and book trips further out. 

"As a matter of fact, we go further out in the booking curve, the better the restoration is right now," he said. "So if you look at July, it’s better than June. August is better than July. September is better than August." 

Delta planes line up at their gates while on the tarmac of Salt Lake City International Airport in Utah Sept. 28, 2013. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo)

The airline is "very pleased with the pace of demand recovery" especially after it closed the books in 2020 with devastating losses. The airline took a $12.4 billion hit for all of 2020 – marking the largest annual loss in the history of the airline, which dates to the 1920s.  

Now, not only have bookings "been better than expected" but demand is also increasing in business centers, according to Hauenstein, who further noted it's good to see a lot of the larger U.S. cities reopening, such as Boston, New York and San Francisco. 

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"It's good to see traffic coming back…in a very rapid pace," he said.  

Delta isn't the only airline seeing the change from the beginning of 2020 when travel restrictions and fear of contracting the virus kept most travelers grounded. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES, INC. 44.91 -0.36 -0.80%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS, INC. 54.34 -0.78 -1.42%

United Airlines said Tuesday its customers are also hitting the skies faster than expected. 

UNITED AIRLINES SEAT DEMAND SNAPPING BACK FASTER THAN EXPECTED

The airline said domestic leisure yields on tickets purchased since the beginning of the month for travel during the second quarter have "reached levels similar to 2019," according to a regulatory filing.

During that same time, yields on tickets purchased for domestic leisure travel have exceeded 2019 levels, a trend the airline projects will continue during the summer travel season. 

Ticket yields refer to the process that allocates a certain number of seats per flight at a discounted rate, full fare, frequent flier miles and last-minute sales. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.