Delta Expecting More Than 5M Travelers For Thanksgiving Week, Says CEO

Delta Air Lines expects more than 5 million passengers to fly with the carrier during the Thanksgiving holiday week, its CEO says. 

In an interview with the Today Show on Tuesday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline is “absolutely prepared” for the holiday rush. His comments come after a summer of severe disruptions caused by a combination of labor shortages and air traffic control problems. As a result, several airlines, including Delta, have reduced their routes to minimize disruptions.

Bastian said the airline has recruited 25,000 new employees since the beginning of the year to help meet that goal.

“Delta is known for its high quality of service and the very best people in the industry, and we are ready,” Bastian said during the interview. “We’ve been, in fact, back since pretty much the second week of July running a high quality of reliability and service excellence that our customers expect. And that’s going to continue.”

Delta Airlines airplane

Even though conditions have improved since the summer, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently warned that while air travel would probably be better than it was then, it won’t be flawless. In the same interview as Buttigieg last month, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby acknowledged that given how “tight” the system is, problems with air travel are almost certainly going to arise in the future.

Bastian talked on the issue of airline seat size reductions outside of the holiday season. The Federal Aviation Administration published a notice in August asking for feedback on the length, width, and pitch of airplane passenger seats.

Bastian declined to comment on the FAA’s study but expressed satisfaction with Delta’s seating arrangement.

“We haven’t changed the seat size or the pitch in many, many years. In fact, we’ve gone just the opposite,” Bastian said. “We’ve added a significant number of additional legroom seats in Comfort Plus or Premium Economy cabins, or Delta one, so… any new plane that we’re taking today, at least one-third of the seats on the planes are actually larger seats than ever before. And we have not compromised seat quality because we know seat comfort is one of the most important reasons why you choose an airline.”