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'Toughest year in Delta’s history' | Delta reports billions in losses in 2020

The company reported its full earnings on Thursday.

ATLANTA — In a year where air travel practically evaporated at the outset of the pandemic and the industry continues to see irregular business months later, it's no surprise Delta had what its chief executive termed the "toughest year" in the company's history.

The airline reported billions in losses for 2020 on Thursday, but sounded a brighter note looking ahead.

"“While our challenges continue in 2021, I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery and a turning point that results in an even stronger Delta returning to revenue growth, profitability and free cash generation," CEO Ed Bastian said in a release as the company reported its earnings.

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According to the release, the company's adjusted losses amounted to $9 billion. Operating revenue was down 66 percent compared to 2019 "as the global pandemic severely affected air travel."

Their fourth quarter adjusted loss amounted to a little more than $2 billion.

“Our December quarter results capped the toughest year in Delta’s history. I want to thank the Delta people who have risen to the occasion, focusing on delivering results for all of our stakeholders by putting our customers at the center of our recovery,” Bastian said in the release.

The company nonetheless said things appear to be looking up. It reported its fourth-quarter operating revenue was a 10-point improvement on the third quarter and looked ahead to a "sustained demand recovery" later this year.

“We see three distinct phases in 2021. The early part of the year will be characterized by choppy demand recovery and a booking curve that remains compressed, followed by an inflection point, and finally a sustained demand recovery as customer confidence gains momentum, vaccinations become widespread and offices re-open,” said Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president. “For each phase, Delta has the levers to pull to successfully react to the emerging demand environment, including tightly matching our sellable capacity to expected demand.” 

Read Delta's full earnings report here.