Delta CEO Confident There Is a 'Turning Point' for Travel This Year

Boeing 777 Delta Air Lines aircraft

While COVID-19 continues to hinder travelers around the world, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a New Year's memo to employees that he was confident a "turning point" for the travel industry is ahead.

"It's likely that we'll experience two distinct phases during the next 12 months," Bastian wrote in the memo to employees, published to the airline's website. "The first will look a lot like 2020, with travel demand deeply depressed and our focus on ensuring the health and safety of our people and customers. The second phase will begin only when we reach a turning point with widely available vaccinations that spur a significant return to travel, particularly business travel." 

Delta is expecting a "positive cash flow by the spring," Bastian writes, after vaccines are readily available and business travelers return to the skies. 

Although Bastian admitted that travel in 2021 is very much still up in the air, he explained, "While I am optimistic this will be a year of recovery, the continued uncertainty of the pandemic means we'll need to be nimble, ready to adjust our course and adapt to an ever-changing environment," he wrote."

Throughout the pandemic, Delta has implemented safety precautions like mandatory COVID-19 tests for flights between the U.S. and UK, social distancing and blocked seating in the cabins and facial recognition for touchless boarding at select airports. Bastian's memo reiterated that the airline would remain focused on safety while the world continues to battle the pandemic over the coming months. 

Delta is not alone in relying on a vaccine for reopening travel in 2021. Several experts have predicted that if and when the world reopens in 2021, travelers may be required to enroll in programs like "vaccination passports" in order to access their destination. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at

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