After markets closed on Friday, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) said its board has suspended dividend payments, as the company and the airline industry try to weather the severe travel slowdown caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In a memo to employees, company CEO Ed Bastian called the pandemic "the greatest economic challenge in our history," saying that the company is burning through $50 million in cash daily and expects second-quarter revenue to fall 80% year over year.
The airline said it has entered into a new $2.6 billion secured credit facility and intends to draw down $3 billion under its existing revolving credit facilities, but Bastian warned the ramifications of the shutdown are likely to linger far after the pandemic is gone.
"It's also clear, given the underlying damage the virus has created to the overall economy, that demand recovery will take an extended period once the virus is contained," the CEO wrote.
Airlines have requested upwards of $50 billion in financial support from the government in the form of loans and grants, with Delta rival United Airlines Holdings warning Friday that absent a relief package, layoffs would begin in April. Bastian didn't mention layoffs but has told employees in the past that Delta could not take any option off the table.
Critics of the airline assistance package have argued that the industry squandered its capital on buybacks, leading to the current financial distress. In his memo, Bastian pushed back at that allegation, saying "at Delta, nothing could be further from the truth."
He said that Delta's policy in recent years has been to put 50% of operating cash flow back into the business, use 30% for debt reduction, and return 20% to shareholders.