Delta Air Lines (DAL -1.44%) said Friday it intends to cut capacity by 40% and ground up to 300 planes as the airline tries to deal with plunging demand due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
CEO Ed Bastian, in a memo to employees first reported by CNBC, said that he would forgo his salary for the next six months as the airline tries to fly through turbulence caused by the global outbreak. Bastian said that near-term bookings have all but dried up, and said the airline intends to suspend flying to continental Europe over the next 30 days.
Delta is also offering voluntary unpaid leave to employees and is implementing a hiring freeze.
The novel coronavirus is expected to cost global airlines more than $100 billion in revenue, and airlines are responding by cutting costs as quickly as they can. United Airlines Holdings on March 4 said it would cut international flying by 20%, and JetBlue Airways has also confirmed capacity cuts to deal with the downturn.
Delta had been expected to cut more flights, but the size of the cut is much higher than the 15% of capacity figure Bastian mentioned at an investor conference earlier in the week. The airline also said it was in discussions with regulators and lawmakers about possible support for the industry, echoing comments made by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier in the day.
The airline industry is certain to face losses from the outbreak extending well into the second quarter of 2020 if not beyond, but the U.S. industry in general and Delta in particular is well-positioned to weather the storm.