The butcher’s bill will be revealed by U.S. airlines Tuesday when Delta leads off the (now euphemistically named) third quarter “earnings” report season. And the only question is not whether, but by how much will the third quarter rank as the single worst in industry history?
Based on analysts’ current consensus estimates the Big Four U.S. carriers – Delta, American, United and Southwest – are expected to lose almost $8.5 billion combined in the quarter on a pre-tax operating basis. Throw in proportionately similar, albeit much smaller losses from the rest of America’s airlines, plus taxes, write-offs and other below-the line losses
Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 becomes widely available – and widely used – around the globe, and if the very onerous government restrictions on international travel largely disappear, airlines still will continue to struggle with extraordinarily weak demand for business travel through the end of 2021, and likely beyond.
And that could be devastating for already cash-depleted airlines that are guaranteed this year to report losses that, even for an industry with a long history of red ink, will be record-shattering.
The economic importance of business travel for all conventional airlines and even for most