Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) Q4 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

Delta Air Strains Inc. (NYSE: DAL) This autumn 2020 earnings name dated Jan. 14, 2021.


Good morning, everybody and welcome to the Delta Air Strains December Quarter and Full 12 months 2020 Monetary Outcomes Convention Name. My title is Kathy, and I shall be your coordinator. [Operator Instructions]. And I now wish to flip the convention over to Jill Greer, Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go forward.

Jill Greer — Vice President – Investor Relations

Thanks, Kathy. Good morning, everybody and thanks for becoming a member of us for our December quarter and full 12 months 2020 earnings name. Becoming a member of us from Atlanta at this time are our CEO, Ed Bastian; our president, Glen Hauenstein; and our Interim co-CFO, Gary Chase. Our whole management group is offered for the Q&A session.

Ed will open the decision with an outline of Delta’s efficiency and technique. Glen will present an replace on the income surroundings. And Gary will talk about price liquidity in our steadiness sheet. We’ve prolonged our name at this time to 90 minutes to verify we’ve loads of time for questions. For analysts, we ask you to please restrict your self to at least one query and a quick follow-up, so we will get to as lots of you as potential. After the analyst Q&A, we’ll transfer to our media questions, after which Ed will present some closing remarks. Immediately’s dialogue comprises forward-looking statements that symbolize our beliefs or expectations about future occasions. All forward-looking statements contain dangers and uncertainties that would trigger the precise outcomes to vary materially from the forward-looking statements. A number of the components that will trigger such variations are described in Delta’s SEC filings. We’ll additionally talk about non-GAAP monetary measures and all outcomes exclude particular objects until in any other case famous. You will discover a reconciliation of our non-GAAP measures on the Investor Relations web page at And with that, I’ll flip the decision to Ed.

Ed Bastian — Chief Govt Officer

Nicely, thanks Jill. Good morning everybody. This morning we reported pre-tax losses of $2.1 billion for the December quarter and $9 billion for the total 12 months, capping the hardest 12 months in Delta’s historical past. We’ve been saying all alongside that this restoration wouldn’t comply with a straight line, with demand choppiness as COVID infections rose throughout the nation and authorities and public well being officers issued journey advisories. Our revenues of $3.5 billion for the fourth quarter which was 30% of final 12 months’s ranges. And though, we nonetheless have the powerful winter forward of us, we’re inspired by the progress that’s been made on the vaccine entrance and are assured that Delta is positioned to efficiently lead our trade into restoration because the 12 months unfolds.

Whereas 2020 was a difficult 12 months, we delivered outcomes for all of our stakeholders. For our staff, we prioritize defending their well being and security and preserving our tradition. For instance, all through the previous 12 months we’ve supplied and proceed to supply an in depth worker testing program and pay safety applications for these identified, uncovered or at excessive danger of COVID-19.

Now we have had exceptional volunteerism upto 40,000 staff taking unpaid leaves all through the summer time to guard jobs and protect money. And actually, we nonetheless have over 10,000 staff within the month of January out on unpaid leaves. And we’ve made it by this 12 months with out furloughing any staff. Our emphasis on caring for our individuals is mirrored in Delta’s recognition this week by Glassdoor as among the finest locations to work for the fifth 12 months in a row, coming in seventh general on the record of 100 massive firms, the best rank Delta has ever obtained, all within the face of the pandemic. Actually unbelievable work by our group.

For our prospects, we’re preserving them on the heart of our restoration. Our well being and security efforts, being the one main U.S. airline that continues to dam center seats to partnering with main names just like the Mayo Clinic, Emory Healthcare, Lysol and Purell in growing the Delta Care normal, to launching the trade’s first COVID-tested Trans-Atlantic flights with no quarantine on arrival, are all focused at restoring client confidence in journey and reopening borders, which shall be an vital driver of income development sooner or later.

Our prospects acknowledge the excellent service our individuals present with an all-time excessive December internet promoter rating of 71, up 20 factors year-over-year and by enterprise journey information naming Delta, the highest airline for company vacationers for the tenth 12 months in a row. And as soon as once more coming in first place on all 12 metrics that they measure within the survey.

That buyer choice and loyalty is what underlies our income premium and has by no means been stronger. And at last for our shareholders, we secured our liquidity place and rescaled our price construction. We decreased liquidity danger by elevating over $25 billion in capital for the reason that pandemic started with roughly $17 billion of liquidity, our adjusted internet debt nevertheless solely elevated $8 billion year-over-year and we don’t anticipate that internet debt will enhance going ahead.

We’ve swiftly eliminated price from the enterprise with three consecutive quarters of working bills declining by almost 50% or extra, rising the variable nature of our price construction. Actually, within the December quarter our all-in unit prices have been down 4.5% year-over-year regardless of flown capability being down 44%. That may be a exceptional achievement and credit score to all Delta staff for making that occur.

And by preserving our price beneath management, we leveraged the modest enhance in internet gross sales to cut back our common each day money burn to $12 million a day for the December quarter, half of what it was within the September quarter and the lower of 90% for the reason that early days of the pandemic in late March.

Turning to 2021, we anticipate the March quarter to look much like the December quarter with the March quarter, revenues at 35% to 40% of March quarter 2019 ranges after which our money burn for the quarter holding at $10 million to $15 million per day. We anticipate that shall be adopted by an inflection level this spring as vaccine distribution continues. Journey restrictions begin to ease and client confidence begins to develop, hopefully leading to money burn reaching breakeven or higher by the second quarter. And because the 12 months progresses, we anticipate demand will begin to speed up as vaccinations develop into extra widespread and the virus is in a contained state and prospects acquire larger confidence to make future journey commitments.

This could allow a sustained restoration to start within the second half of 2021 with the return to profitability this summer time. In order we work by this surroundings, we’re targeted on 5 issues. First, as at all times, we’re dedicated to preserving our tradition in tact and staff engaged. The Delta individuals are our most strategic asset. They’ve accomplished an amazing job this 12 months and collectively will lead our airline by the restoration.

Second, we’ll proceed to prioritize the shopper with a concentrate on well being and security and the upkeep of Delta — of the trade’s strongest community, thereby rising loyalty and choice for our model. Clients have proven they’re keen to pay extra for the standard of our community, product and our service. The good points we’ve achieved in buyer satisfaction place us nicely to develop sustainable income development sooner or later.

Third, we’ll preserve our concentrate on innovation which is able to allow our staff enhance the shopper expertise and drive effectivity by the enterprise. And modern pondering will energy our capacity to deal with massive challenges in entrance of us, like our purpose of attaining carbon neutrality within the subsequent decade. Fourth, we’ll drive the aggressive price construction. Given the adjustments we’ve made during the last 12 months, our purpose is to maintain our non-fuel unit price at or beneath 2019 ranges by the December quarter of this 12 months and roughly 75% of 2019 capability ranges, displaying continued agility in managing our price.

And at last, we’re dedicated to debt discount and creating long-term shareholder worth together with persevering with to guard our house owners, in order that they’ll take part in future upside with out dilution. As a result of for traders, whereas the near-term demand path is murky, trade fundamentals stay intact.

Following virtually a 12 months of subdued journey, prospects are starting to exhibit conduct that’s indicative of pent-up demand. Procuring enterprise throughout Delta’s digital channels are considerably outpacing the passenger volumes we’re carrying. In our most up-to-date company survey, 40% of respondents anticipate full restoration by 2022.

Our companions at American Specific are additionally seeing encouraging indicators, whether or not it’s cardholders holding onto their factors in anticipation of redeeming them for air journey or a latest survey that advised roughly 70% of respondents anticipate to make a journey in 2021 after not touring in 2020. Though it should take time, prospects wish to journey once more once they really feel it’s secure. They really feel they’ve had a 12 months of their life taken from them and so they’re beginning to get able to reclaim it. Till then, we’re lucky to have the assist of the U.S. authorities which acknowledges the significance of the airline trade and we thank Congress and the administration for passing the COVID reduction invoice final month.

On account of that invoice, we anticipate receiving roughly $3 billion as well as — in further payroll assist funds largely on phrases much like the preliminary CARES Act program. These funds have been crucial in saving hundreds of trade jobs throughout an unprecedented degree of demand decline, and it’s why the U.S. airline trade is in the very best place to get well from the pandemic over another worldwide markets.

So whereas 2020 was a tough 12 months and challenges will proceed in 2021, I’m inspired at among the information that we’re seeing, and I’m pleased with the inspiration that we’ve constructed at Delta. This Firm is nicely positioned to emerge in a stronger, aggressive place from this disaster and can proceed to steer our trade within the years forward.

And with that, I’ll flip the decision over to Glen.

Glen Hauenstein — President

Thanks, Ed and good morning everybody. As Ed talked about, we began the December quarter seeing encouraging demand traits, however — driving COVID circumstances and journey advisories we started to see some weak spot round Thanksgiving and into December. Regardless of that softness, the height intervals proceed to outperform non-peak intervals, and we’ve seen sequential enchancment in whole revenues, which recovered from being down 80% finish of September quarter to down 70% within the December quarter on sellable capability that was down 62%.

On January third, we had a $50 million ticket income date and carried greater than 250,000 prospects. Each of those have been the best for the reason that onset of the pandemic and regardless of having meaningfully much less stock on the market, given our center seat block, we outperformed on passenger income technology within the first 9 months of the 12 months. It is a testomony to prospects’ willingness to pay a premium for the Delta distinction.

Leisure markets in some locations are the very best performers in our community with our method of focusing on sellable capability to match demand, we’re biasing restoring capability to leisure markets. Consequently, roughly one third of our home capability is presently deployed into leisure locations. Our coastal hubs, particularly in New York and Boston are nonetheless among the weakest areas in our community with demand in these hubs solely 20% to 25% recovered.

Worldwide demand stays weak and is proscribed to important journey. That stated, we proceed to work in direction of opening further COVID examined lanes of journey with no quarantine on arrival, much like our Atlanta and Rome — Atlanta to Rome and Atlanta to Amsterdam factors. This shall be vital in restoring confidence in long-haul worldwide journey as vaccine rollouts proceed. Our premium seat technique is holding up nicely. Home premium revenues carried out in keeping with foremost cabin within the quarter. A very good consequence contemplating that we’re persevering with to function a largely leisure pushed surroundings with the next proportion of premium seat held again as a result of our center blocks.

As all of you’re conscious, company demand continues to be depressed and was solely 10% to fifteen% restored for the quarter. Company income was about three factors greater than the September quarter with small and medium accounts which make up half of our company revenues recovering 5 factors sooner than massive company.

Whereas the passenger income surroundings stays difficult, we’re inspired that efforts to diversify our income streams have paid off. Our American Specific remuneration in 2020 was almost $3 billion, down solely 30% on a year-over-year foundation. Actually, American Specific has shared its spending on our co-brand card portfolio has carried out in line to barely higher your general card portfolio spend in 2020. Within the December quarter, MRO income was down virtually 30% relative to the identical interval final 12 months, whereas cargo income was up 10% on a year-over-year foundation. This marks the primary quarter of cargo income development for the reason that December 2018 quarter.

Our December quarter outcomes mirror the challenges that the pandemic has introduced not simply to Delta, however to the whole airline trade. I’m extremely grateful for the efforts of the whole Delta group in managing by the difficult 12 months that we confronted. Now that we take into consideration 2021, we see three distinct phases to the 12 months and for every part we’ve levers to assist us react to the rising demand surroundings.

Within the first part, we anticipate demand in purchasing to proceed, the reserving curve to stay extra compressed and the outcomes to be much like the December quarter. In response, we’ll concentrate on ensuring that our sellable capability largely aligns with the emergence — rising demand surroundings. For instance, our January and February home scheduled seats shall be down 3% to six% versus the non-holiday interval in November. That can lead to our March quarter sellable capability being roughly 55% decrease relative to the identical interval in 2019, per the anticipated 60% to 65% income decline.

We’ll additionally proceed to leverage our non-ticket income streams like cargo, loyalty and MRO that we imagine ought to proceed to outperform passenger revenues. Within the second part, vaccination distribution continues, journey restrictions and advisories start to ease and buyer confidence begins to develop. As that occurs, we anticipate to see an extension of the reserving curve, leading to a money led restoration with income restoration to comply with. We anticipate it will occur within the spring and can lead to us attaining our money burn breakeven goal.

In response to the second part, our center seats shall be a really highly effective instrument for us, after we can use so as to add capability in a really price environment friendly manner, producing a significant margin tailwind. Within the ultimate part, vaccinations develop into extra widespread and places of work start to reopen. We anticipate that to happen within the second half of ’21 and because of this — and lead to a sustained enchancment in demand and yields with development in money technology because the reserving curve normalizes.

With the restoration initially fueled by leisure demand, Delta’s success shall be pushed by our superior connecting economics to our core hubs domestically and our accomplice hubs internationally. With 34 new plane deliveries this 12 months we’ll additionally leverage greater gauge and extra environment friendly plane that produce decrease seat price, extra premium seats and a greater buyer expertise. This can permit us to capitalize on our model affinity and upsell alternatives that are enabled by the elimination of change charges for U.S. prospects and the redemption of e-credits. It would take longer for company demand to return, however we’re inspired by the outcomes of our latest company survey.

Our company accounts are telling us that they largely anticipate returning to their places of work and journey within the June and September quarters. They’re additionally telling us by the top of ’21, half predict to return to 50% to 100% of pre-COVID home journey, and as much as 50% of pre-COVID worldwide journey. To our company prospects, our dedication to you stays unchanged. Delta is prepared when you find yourself. We shall be able to serve our company prospects by leveraging the strongest home and worldwide networks, rebuilding focus cities and level to level flying based mostly on buyer wants and by capitalizing on our efforts to at all times put the shopper expertise on the heart of what we do.

We’re optimistic for the long run having constructed the correct basis and specializing in what we will management. We’re assured in our capacity to efficiently navigate the put up pandemic restoration. And with that, I’ll flip the decision over to Gary.

Gary Chase — Co-Chief Monetary Officer, Senior Vice President – Enterprise Improvement and Monetary Planning

Thanks, Glen and good morning everybody. Let me contact on the fourth quarter and 2020 after which I’ll flip to the outlook for prices within the steadiness sheet as we head into ’21. Our December quarter pre-tax lack of $2.1 billion is about $500 million higher than the September quarter given the income enchancment Glen simply mentioned mixed with robust price self-discipline. We decreased price by roughly 50% from 2019 ranges for the third consecutive quarter. Extra importantly, our prices have been up simply 6% from the third quarter on 30% capability development and three-quarters of that enhance got here from greater gas.

Complete unit price together with gas was down 4.5% in comparison with 2019 on 40% decrease flown capability. Our common each day money burn for the December quarter was $12 million, half of the third quarter’s $24 million. We closed the 12 months with $16.7 billion in liquidity and adjusted internet debt of $18.8 billion, up about $8 billion versus year-end 2019. Now as we glance into the 12 months forward, enhancing demand fundamentals will underpin a transition of our monetary focus from defending our liquidity to positioning the Firm for a return to profitability and free money circulation.

I’ll clarify our method to prices in our steadiness sheet as we make this transition. Let’s begin with prices. We have to keep versatile and preserve our self-discipline to be able to place the Firm for the return to profitability, Ed talked about, as we anticipate continued choppiness in demand within the early a part of the 12 months. We’ve already taken structural steps to resize our enterprise. Our two largest price drivers, fleet and head depend are each 15% to twenty% smaller than they have been in 2019. Head depend reductions have been a tough however essential choice. It was exhausting to see 18,000 gifted and devoted coworkers go away, nevertheless it’s the testomony to the Delta tradition that these reductions have been achieved completely by voluntary means.

We accelerated our fleet transformation by retiring plane with comparatively quick remaining lives and simplified our fleet by eliminating two whole households, whereas rising our gauge. On a run price foundation these adjustments will drive greater than $400 million within the annualized price profit.

As we add capability in ’21, we’ll drive greater utilization of our system and we’ve room to rebuild our community from present ranges at low incremental price, roughly 40% to 50% of our December quarter non-fuel CASM. Our purpose is to supply and maintain non-fuel unit price beneath 2019 ranges by the fourth quarter. That price focus shall be a key driver of profitability later within the 12 months when demand returns.

Trying to the March quarter, we’re getting ready for a stronger demand by reactivating plane and restoring our individuals to full hours, driving about $200 million in further prices versus the December quarter. Our March quarter whole working expense shall be 35% to 40% decrease than March quarter 2019, with a complete unit price together with gas, down 5% to 10% on roughly 35% decrease flown capability.

Let’s transfer now to capital, the steadiness sheet and liquidity. As we start the 12 months, situations have been much like the place we exited 2020. A modest uplift in internet gross sales ought to offset the associated fee investments we’re making within the quarter and because of this, we anticipate common each day money burn between $10 million and $15 million much like the December quarter.

With additional enhancements in internet gross sales as prospects acquire confidence, we anticipate our money burn to stop this spring. With that purpose in sight, we’re turning our focus to how we’ll steadiness reinvesting within the enterprise, whereas lowering our debt ranges. Given our expectations for money circulation in ’21 and proceeds from the PSP extension, we anticipate our present adjusted internet debt ranges to be the excessive watermark for that vital metric.

For the total 12 months, we’re anticipating $2.5 billion in gross capex, a big discount from the $4 billion to $5 billion that we’re spending pre-COVID. Now we have $1.3 billion of plane buy commitments for 34 new deliveries this 12 months, which we’ve the choice to totally finance and about $1 billion in non-aircraft capex. Together with retirements, we anticipate our fleet depend on the finish of 2021 shall be 15% smaller than at year-end 2019 with whole fleet declining from about 1,350 to about 1,130. An equal precedence is to work on our steadiness sheet by lowering our liquidity and paying down debt. Now we have roughly $1.8 billion of debt maturities in ’21 and $2.1 billion in ’22.

Our debt has a median rate of interest of 4.6%, which is able to drive roughly $350 million in quarterly curiosity expense. Nonetheless, we’ll start lowering these bills by paying down debt this 12 months. We shouldn’t have obligatory pension contributions till 2025 beneath airline reduction, however we anticipate to make not less than $500 million in voluntary contributions this 12 months. When it comes to a quarter-end outlook with about $3 billion of PSP assist anticipated from the federal government within the March quarter, we mission ending the interval with $18 billion to $19 billion in liquidity and adjusted internet debt of roughly $18 billion.

Let me shut by saying this. The Delta distinction has by no means been extra vital, and I’d wish to thank the Delta group for delivering for one another and for our prospects amid the trade’s most difficult surroundings ever. Due to your dedication, we’ll emerge from the disaster stronger and extra resilient than ever.

With that, I’ll flip the decision again over to Jill to start the Q&A.

We’re nonetheless processing the Q&A portion of the convention name. We shall be updating it as quickly as we analyze and course of the con name. Keep tuned right here for extra updates.

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