Delta Airways misplaced $408 million within the last quarter of 2021, dragged down by a COVID-19 surge that rocked the airline in December, and the provider predicted on Thursday that it’ll endure yet one more quarterly loss earlier than journey perks up in spring and summer season.

CEO Ed Bastian mentioned 8,000 workers have contracted COVID-19 over the past 4 weeks. Sick employees and winter storms have led to greater than 2,200 cancelled flights since Dec. 24.

Cancellations have dropped sharply up to now few days, however the spate of spiked flights value the airline $75 million and the newest outbreak, attributable to the omicron variant of the virus, is anticipated to push the business’s restoration again by two months.

“I do not suppose we will see a pickup in bookings or journey throughout January and doubtless the primary a part of February,” Bastian mentioned in an interview. “It is all the time the weakest a part of the 12 months, and it may be that a lot weaker due to omicron. We’d like confidence in journey returning as soon as the virus recedes.”

Delta expects omicron infections to peak over the following few days after which decline quickly because it has in South Africa and – extra slowly – in the UK.

Omicron has halted an extended, sluggish rise in journey and thrown it into reverse. Up to now in January, the variety of folks flying within the U.S. is down 20% from identical month in 2019 – worse than the 16% declines in November and December.

Delta expects to lose cash in January and February and for the primary quarter as an entire.

The airline expects first-quarter income to be 72% to 74% of pre-pandemic ranges – about the identical because the fourth quarter. Prices are anticipated to rise sharply. Prices aside from gas will bounce about 15% from 2019, and jet gas is getting pricier too.

Nevertheless, the Atlanta firm expects to return to profitability in March – when spring break might assist fill planes, particularly if coronavirus infections are falling – and for the remainder of 2022.

Delta believes it’s going to rent a number of thousand folks this 12 months, Bastian mentioned, because it rebuilds from the pandemic and prepares for what it hopes will probably be a busy summer season. The corporate put aside $108 million for particular profit-sharing funds of $1,250 for every present worker.

The thank-you cost to workers comes as a brand new skirmish breaks out between largely non-union Delta and the nation’s largest union of flight attendants. The union accuses Delta of pressuring workers to return to work too quickly after contracting the virus.

Delta lobbied the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention final month to scale back the really helpful quarantine interval from 10 days to five days for vaccinated individuals who contract the virus, with Bastian and different Delta officers saying that the 10-day customary “might considerably affect our workforce and operations.”

The CDC made the change, with its director, Rochelle Walensky, explaining on NPR that “we began to see challenges with … airline flights and different areas.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Affiliation of Flight Attendants, mentioned Delta lobbied the CDC after it was sluggish to supply incentive pay for workers to select up further work through the holidays as infections unfold.

Delta disputes the union’s claims, and the airline’s high lawyer despatched a cease-and-desist letter to the union final week, accusing the group of constructing “false and defamatory” statements in regards to the firm.

Delta’s fourth-quarter loss in contrast with a revenue of $1.1 billion in the identical quarter earlier than the pandemic.

Excluding losses on some investments and profit-sharing, Delta earned $170 million, or 22 cents per share. That simply topped per-share projections on Wall Road of 14 cents, in keeping with a FactSet survey.

Income was $9.47 billion, down 17% from $11.44 billion within the fourth quarter of 2019, however nicely above the $9.02 billion predicted by business analysts.

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