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Delta Sees Cash Burn Improving, On Track for Cash Flow Breakeven by Year End

By Lou Whiteman – May 19, 2020 at 1:24PM

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The airline is on plan to survive the COVID-19 crisis.

Delta Air Lines (DAL -3.56%) expects cash burn to fall to $40 million per day by the end of June, $10 million better than the company's previous forecast and down dramatically from the $100 million per day burn in March.

CFO Paul Jacobson, speaking at a virtual investor conference, said the reduced burn is mostly thanks to cost cutting. However, the company has seen "a little bit of a bounce off the bottom" in terms of demand. Airlines have been hit hard by a COVID-19 pandemic-induced slump in travel, though Delta is not alone in seeing signs that demand might have bottomed out.

A Delta plane on the tarmac.

Image source: Delta Air Lines.

Jacobson said he has seen a "modest" improvement to net sales driven by an uptick in leisure bookings for domestic travel in June and July. He said Delta is taking a cautious approach, unsure if these trips will end up being cancelled or travel will proceed. Delta is adding about 100 flights to its schedule in June, but the company expects it will take as long as three years before normal demand returns.

The big concern for airline investors is whether the industry has the cash to survive until demand returns. Jacobson said Delta expects it can reduce daily cash burn to zero by year's end. That will likely come in part via a workforce reduction, but Delta hopes to accomplish much of what it needs on headcount via voluntary separation and retirement packages and not layoffs.

Lou Whiteman owns shares of Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool recommends Delta Air Lines. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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