Delta Air Lines plans to give each of its 75,000+ employees a $1,250 bonus next month, despite reporting losses in the fourth quarter following a tumultuous year amid the global pandemic and rising inflation.
The Atlanta-based airline reported Thursday a $408 million net loss in the final quarter of 2021, driven in part by rising fuel costs and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which had impacted employees and led to hundreds of flights being canceled over the Christmas period.
However, for the full year, Delta reported $280 million in profit, its first in two years, bolstered by $4.5 billion in federal relief funding to keep the airline afloat during the pandemic.
As a thank you to its workers, the company plans to offer a one-time profit-sharing payment to all of its current employees, according to its CEO, Ed Bastian.
“2021 was a year like no other for Delta, with significant progress in our recovery supported by growing brand preference, enabling us to be the only major U.S. airline to deliver profitability across the second half of the year,” Bastian said. “As always, our people drove this success, which is why we were happy to announce this morning a special profit-sharing payment for all eligible employees.”
The airline will pay out $1,250 to each employee who was with the company through its profitable second half of 2021 “in recognition of the fact that everyone has worked very hard through this very, very difficult year,” Bastian told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Employees will reportedly receive the payments on Valentine’s Day.
Elsewhere on Thursday, the airline noted that the Omicron variant, which is highly transmissible but much less virulent than previous variants, had impacted staffing levels. Bastian told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” after releasing the quarterly results that around 8,000 of Delta’s employees, roughly 1 in 10, has tested positive for the virus over the last four weeks.
“Omicron, as I indicated, has impacted all of us,” he said. “Good news is that [the infected employees] were all fine. There’s been no significant health issues that we’ve seen from it. But it’s 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. So the confluence of those two events could not have happened at a worse time.”
The company said it is likely that the effects of Omicron will continue to impact the company in the first quarter of this year but it is confident that the situation will improve towards the spring months.
“While the rapidly spreading omicron variant has significantly impacted staffing levels and disrupted travel across the industry, Delta’s operation has stabilized over the last week and returned to pre-holiday performance,” Bastian said. “Omicron is expected to temporarily delay the demand recovery 60 days, but as we look past the peak, we are confident in a strong spring and summer travel season with significant pent-up demand for consumer and business travel.”
While roughly 98 percent of cases across the nation are now attributed to the Omicron variant, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, individuals who contract Omicron are much less likely to require hospitalization compared with the previous variants such as Delta, experts, including researchers examining COVID-19 hospitalizations in Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California system, say.