Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta, spent much of the first quarter of 2021 talking about the coming “year of recovery”. With hopes that the vaccinations will restore consumer confidence in aviation and fuel the fire of pent-up demand, he’s gearing up to turn a profit by the middle of the year – which is badly needed afterwards. record losses of $ 12.39 billion in 2020. The company saw an improvement at the end of last year: it cut its third-to-fourth-quarter and fourth-quarter cash flow in half. $ 755 million is pale compared to that of the United States and the United States, both around $ 2 billion, but Delta and its competitors still expect a bumpy road. “It’s always darker before dawn, and that’s exactly where we are,” says Bastian. He expects the United States to reach an initial stage of herd immunity in early summer, barring the emergence of vaccine-resistant mutations of covid-19. “This will be the key to starting the journey – even if it will only be a step, a significant step, as we return to a new normal.” The same milestone, he says, could be the trigger that will allow Delta to reopen reservations for the middle seats, which it has blocked for social distancing throughout the pandemic. Another significant step, he says , will be the reopening of international borders. “More precisely in Asia, they will be very conservative [about this]”Bastian said. “But in 12 to 18 months, I believe international travel will be back.” It’s a bit of a wait. But the upside, he explains, is that travelers will come back to see that the aviation industry has improved in several ways. The pandemic and the events of 2020 have led companies and their leaders to reinvent themselves for sustainability, resilience and industry-wide improvements inspiring inclusiveness that will long outlast covid-19. Last February, Delta pledged to spend $ 1 billion on greening its operations over the next decade, with the goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral airline through the use of alternative fuels, carbon offsets, and better recycling and waste reduction efforts. “We have to prepare the ground for the next generations that will follow and follow us,” says Bastian, presenting sustainability efforts as both moral and economic imperatives. “You can’t have a business opportunity and a platform for growth if the world doesn’t see your product and service contributing to society.” It would certainly be easier for many to accept the socio-economic benefits of the $ 1.7 trillion travel industry if massive amounts of aviation fuels were not needed. “We know that in our industry the footprint we create represents between 2% and 3% of the global carbon footprint,” says Bastian. “Left unattended, that number will double in the next 10 to 20 years, so the more people who join us on this mission the better. social investments and corporate governance) taking on a more important role than ever, many companies that use Delta for their business travel are reassessing their carbon footprint, particularly in the technology sector. “We don’t want them to go net zero by eliminating air travel,” says Bastian, “so we need to make sure that the work Delta is doing to save its own footprint can be linked to [their] “. The same can be said of the company’s diversity and inclusiveness efforts, which have been of personal concern to Bastian since the 2020 protests surrounding the death of George Floyd. Delta is committed to doubling black leadership roles within the company by 2025, doubling spending with black-owned businesses, and reviewing its talent acquisition strategies to create a better pipeline. for the professional development of blacks. (The company also tracks its progress against these goals publicly, for accountability purposes.) Like greening, these inclusiveness goals are also good for Delta’s bottom line. “We will best serve our customers and connect the world if we reflect the world,” says Bastian. “We are stronger when we have more views expressed around the table, and we can better anticipate the needs of our customers – better understand them when they board our planes – if they are served by people who look like them. “In an environment where traditional loyalty – the type of points and miles – has been increasingly devalued, these efforts can also be an important means of attracting and retaining customers.” Today’s younger generations hui demand it, “says Bastian.” Consumers demand it more and more and are loyal to companies that reflect their own values. ” Waiting for the government to sort out the big problems of our time is also not an option, says Bastian, especially since many are politically fractured. With topics such as sustainability and diversity having a global impact, it is important that global companies take some responsibility for designing solutions. “We all have our part to play. In as divided times as I can remember, we cannot leave everything to government. Business needs to step up its role. efforts and accountability, “he says. This focus on sustainability and diversity has earned Bastian plenty of praise, as well as critics who say he’s become too political. But Bastian thinks 2020 has rewritten the book. rules for a lot of things, including how to be a good leader. “As a business CEO, you are trained to stay out of the line of fire on any subject that is generally not specific. ical to your mission and business purpose, ”he says. “But it is perhaps more broadly defined than ever these days – and I believe our customers, our company and our leaders around the world have a voice when they see inequalities. Or else, silence also speaks. Delta’s pledge to block off the middle seats during the pandemic has been a public relations triumph for the company, which is expected to last until April. Pressed to find out if that expiration date would be met, Bastian admits popular policy will likely be extended until the summer. “We know it’s safe to sit there,” Bastian says, “but we’re going to follow the confidence and comfort of our customers. When we see the demand for those middle seats start to increase, that will be the signal for us to start selling them. “Although Bastian is bearish on international travel in 2021, he is convinced that domestic air travel will make a good comeback. summer, in line with the US vaccination program. That will not change, these are all the new protocols put in place around cleanliness and safety. Antimicrobial trays at TSA, rules on wearing masks and state-of-the-art air filtration systems are here to help. Bastian also sees a new take on business travel to supplant the traditional two-meeting, in-and-out, road warrior style of years past. It is a country in which a new generation of digital nomads will benefit from an exchange. cultural age wherever they can connect to the Internet. “People will travel because they can work remotely, and businesses will find it helps build loyalty and lower costs,” he says. This version of the business trip, says Bastian, “will have a similar scale from what we know, but the purpose and form will be different. That, combined with a continued focus on private space for leisure travelers, will keep demand for seats in the front of the plane high, he expects, resulting in a more business model. resilient that is not so heavily dependent on stable business activity. The bottom line, Bastian says, is that once the pandemic is over, “the real value of travel will be clear and people will give it a higher premium.” .
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