In an interview with Bloomberg television, Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian said he sees the demand for air travel returning much more to normal by the end of 2021. But Bastian expects winter in the northern hemisphere to be difficult and the airline is closely tracking the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across North America and the rest of the world while trying to keep ahead of the virus and the travel restrictions that inevitably follow.
“I don’t know (20)21 will be completely normal,” Bastian said in the interview first broadcast on Tuesday. “Hopefully by the end of 21 we’ll be in a much more normal state,” He continued, saying 2022 would herald the start of the “new normal” while not elaborating on what that might look like.
“When we look at this winter, we’ll see more of the same,” Bastian cautioned. “I think people are itching to get out,” Bastian continued, saying the Atlanta-based airline was seeing demand return strongest in its home U.S. market.
Bastian said there had been a “slow, steady improvement” and that “people are getting more confident with air travel,” but that wasn’t the only problem with convincing people to get back on a plane.
“The world hasn’t really opened up to travel in a meaningful way… certainly air travel,” Bastian explained, citing constantly evolving travel restrictions and quarantine policies, not only internationally but also in the United States. “But when it does we’ll be well-positioned.”
The idea of an air bubble being opened between the U.S. and Europe which is floated around probably won’t happen because of a second wave of COVID-19 Bastian predicted. “It’s not the ideal time,” he said of the plan to open up air bridges through the use of pre-departure testing.
Delta has taken the lead in proving air travel is safe, introducing what it calls a “layered approach” of safety measures which includes blocking middle seats to offer some form of social distancing and becoming one of the first airlines to mandate the wearing of face masks onboard.
Since a group of leading U.S. airlines promised to ban passengers who refused to wear face mask, Delta has led the way in enforcing the strict policy. The carrier said on Tuesday that the number of customers placed on its ‘no fly’ list for face mask non-compliance had now reached 450.
Banned passengers won’t be allowed to fly with Delta until the airline drops its face mask policy. Delta hasn’t given any indication when that might happen and face mask policies could be extended for at least the next year or two.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.