The fact that approximately 11% of the airline’s workforce tested positive for COVID-19 contributed to the cancellation of thousands of flights across the US during the holiday season, Bastian said.
The CEO also predicted losses for the airline for the first quarter of the year due to the unpredictability of COVID-19 and new fast-spreading strains like Omicron.
Bastian said, however, that the situation is beginning to steady, and no sick absences have evolved into anything more serious.
“There were no significant health issues that we were seeing from it, but it knocked them out of the operation for a period of time at the same time that we had the busiest travel that we have seen in two years,” he said. He later added only 1% of flights have been canceled by the airline in the past week.
Delta Air Lines was one of multiple airlines that canceled flights over the holiday season, as it struggled to comply with COVID-19 health guidelines.
Mass cancellations stemming from COVID-19 and severe winter storms caused Delta to report a $408 million loss for the final quarter of 2021.
In December, Bastian co-signed a letter requesting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shorten its isolation recommendation from 10 days to five days to help with staffing shortages, a move criticized by the Association of Flight Attendants.
A few days later, the recommendation was shortened to five days of isolation after a positive COVID-19 test, if asymptomatic.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby also announced 3,000 positive COVID-19 infections among the airline’s 70,000 staff earlier this week, forcing reduced schedules for the company.