Delta CEO Ed Bastian joined Poppy Harlow on CNN Newsroom on Tuesday to discuss Delta’s middle seat block extension, industry furloughs and the potential for negative COVID-19 tests to be required for domestic air travelers.
Bastian discussed Delta’s decision to be the only U.S. airline to continue providing more space for customers by extending its middle seat block through April 30, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, the airline has prioritized the health and safety of its customers and employees to ensure those who want to travel can do so with confidence – always putting people before profits.
“While customer satisfaction on Delta has always been strong, we've seen over the last year it's even stronger. We know the middle seat is one of the things that people really value when they make the decision, in the face of a pandemic, to travel on Delta,” Bastian said. “It’s expensive for us, there’s no question about it. But interestingly, in the most recent quarter we recorded a couple weeks ago, Delta actually had more revenue on average than any of our competitors averaged in the industry - despite the fact we had 20 percent fewer seats available for sale. So people are prioritizing, as they should, their health and safety and comfort as they travel, and we're getting a meaningful premium for travel on Delta.”
Recently, Delta took over part of concourse C at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and turned it into a vaccination center for employees. Vaccinations for qualified, Georgia-based Delta employees and airport community workers age 65 and above officially began Monday. The airline will soon also begin offering vaccinations for the same population of people at the Delta Flight Museum.
"We’re working closely with the Georgia Department of Health,” Bastian said. “I think corporate America really needs to lean in for these next several months to try to get the distribution of the vaccinations at a much higher clip.”
While some have already begun the discussion of whether airlines should mandate frontline employees to be vaccinated, Bastian believes it is too early to have the conversation. In addition, Bastian shared that Delta employees are not in danger of furloughs come April 1.
Bastian was also asked about whether negative COVID-19 test results should be required for domestic air travel. While Delta strongly supports efforts to contain the virus, a testing mandate for domestic air travel isn’t favorable because it would set unachievable standards for protecting public health, strain testing resources for those who really need it, and do little to further curb COVID-19 transmission. Bastian noted such a requirement would delay the recovery of the hospitality sector by at least another year.
“First and foremost, we're carrying, as a U.S. industry, over a million people a day on average and that number is starting to grow again – which we like to see. Air travel domestically is the safest form of transportation. Incidents of spread aboard any of our planes is absolutely minimal. In fact, there are very, very few documented cases globally, not just domestically,” said Bastian during his conversation with Harlow. “It would also take probably about 10 percent of the testing resources that this country needs to test sick people away from those people. It's hard to get tests. There's days of delay still, and I think it'd be a logistical nightmare.”
Watch the full interview above or at the link here.