Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian believes the Omicron variety will have little influence on his company’s business because the peak of infections may occur during Delta’s normally slow months of January and February.
Bastian said on CNBC on Thursday that he had sought medical counsel and that he was hopeful that the Omicron variety will be the last large wave before the COVID-19 pandemic became an endemic and treatable condition.
The Omicron variety is proving to be so highly transmissible that it could spread at breakneck speed through populations. Although early signs suggest that Omicron causes fewer severe symptoms than the Delta variation or the original Wuhan strain, the sheer number of illnesses could put hospitals under a lot of stress.
Despite the fact that Omicron is causing a new wave of infections in the United States, its influence has yet to be felt in Europe or South Africa, where it was first discovered.
If Omicron spreads in the same way, it will quickly become the dominant variation and cause an outbreak. Experts estimate that because of the rapidity with which Omicron spreads, the peak will occur shortly after infection growth becomes exponential.
“It’s not going to impact our holidays, our holidays are strong,” Bastian said about the likely impact of the Omicron variant on Delta’s business.
“We are going to see it in our bookings as we get into January and beyond, principally in the international markets,” Bastian continued. “It’s here in the US already, I expect it to be the dominant strain in the next few weeks here. It is going to have some impact on our first quarter.”
While the Omicron wave was passing through, Bastian said he was preparing to “tear down” the airline, but he’s optimistic that the airline would rapidly recover and demand will quickly rebound in time for the Spring and Summer.
On the heels of a good Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday travel period, Delta is poised to post a profit in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta-based airline has previously warned that rising fuel prices would result in a loss in the fourth quarter. Those prices have since dropped.
The desire for domestic travel remains strong, but a fresh wave of international travel restrictions is putting a damper on ticket sales. Due to Omicron worries, an increasing number of business travelers are being prevented from foreign travel.
Bastian is optimistic that Omicron is only a blip on the radar and that the international recovery will resume in the coming months.