Delta CEO: COVID-19 international travel recovery will require regulations

International travel will be slow to rebound

Delta Air Lines is working with European and U.S. authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make international travel appealing to customers again amid coronavirus risks, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on Wednesday.

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"The main thing that’s affecting international travel are the quarantines as well as the restrictions on U.S. travelers, even getting into Europe," Bastian told "Mornings with Maria." "It’s not as if there’s going to be a green light that goes off and we’re all back traveling internationally. We’re going to have to put some pilots in place, some experimental routes, using testing."

DELTA, UNITED CEOS FORECAST VERY DIFFERENT RETURN DATES FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL

"Testing will be the key to opening up international flows, without a quarantine requirement," he added.

Delta lost $5.38 billion in the third quarter and warned that it does not expect to staunch the cash bleed until spring, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the travel industry.

"This winter is going to be very difficult, in any case, to get international traffic going," Bastian said. "I think next summer you’re going to see people traveling internationally again, but I think it will take a couple of years before we see anywhere close to what we used to see in international business."

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He also discussed the drop in revenue from business travel.

"Business revenues should represent close to half of our overall business. Right now it’s significantly lower than that," Bastian said. "Business travel has always come back faster than anything we expect. It goes down harder as businesses cut it first, and it comes back faster than anyone is expecting. I don’t know that it will get back to 100%, but I do think we’ll get back to a meaningful level."

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The Atlanta-based airline's efforts to slim down its workforce as the virus-induced crisis cratered demand resulted in a $3.1 billion charge for voluntary separation and early retirement programs and a $2.2 billion restructuring charge.

But a 32% drop in labor costs led to a $1.3 billion surplus in federal funds that Congress allocated in March to help airlines preserve jobs for six months.

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FOX Business' Megan Henney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.