Delta Air Lines loses $607M as coronavirus zaps travel

'These are truly unprecedented times'

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Delta Air Lines lost $607 million before taxes in the first three months of the year as Americans eliminated non-essential travel to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

After adding a tax benefit, the Atlanta-based carrier's net loss was $534 million, or 84 cents a share, as revenue fell 18 percent from a year ago to $8.6 billion. Wall Street analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting a loss of 70 cents a share on revenue of $8.92 billion. Battered shares rallied after the results were released.

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"These are truly unprecedented times for all of us,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement. “Government travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders have been effective in slowing the spread of the virus, but have also severely impacted near-term demand for air travel, reducing our expected June quarter revenues by 90 percent, compared to a year ago."

Delta had $6 billion of liquidity at the end of March, and was burning $100 million cash a day. The airline expects that number to moderate to about $50 million by the end of the June quarter. 

GAS PRICES TO STAY CHEAP AFTER CORONAVIRUS SLIDE

To compensate for the lower demand, Delta will cut flight capacity by 85 percent during the three months through June, down 80 percent domestically and 90 percent internationally. Total expenses for the second quarter will be 50 percent, or $5 billion, below a year ago due to reduced capacity, lower fuel expenses and cost initiatives.

Delta expects to receive $5.4 of payroll support -- $3.8 billion through payroll relief and a $1.6 billion low-interest loan. If needed, the airline is eligible for $4.6 billion of secured loans.

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Delta shares have fallen 60 percent this year through Tuesday, worse than the S&P 500's 15 percent drop.