Government Shutdown and Air Travel: Delta Earnings Hit, Delays Continue

Delta Air Lines

The government shutdown is continuing to impact travel, with Delta warning of slower revenue growth in March and some U.S. airports continuing to warn of long wait times.

In its fourth quarter earnings statement, which it released this morning, Delta President Glen Hauenstein warned that the ongoing shutdown, as well as the timing of the Easter holiday and currency headwinds, could drag down the airline’s revenue growth, which it is forecasting to be flat to up to 2 percent in the March quarter.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian further told CNBC that he expected the shutdown to cost the airline approximately $25 million in revenue this month.

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Meanwhile, climbing absences by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel continue to cause problems with wait times at U.S. airports. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta’s main hub and one of the busiest airports in the world, warned that it is experiencing longer wait times than usual.

Passengers waiting at the Atlanta airport on Tuesday told NBC News that lines were moving slowly, with one passenger on Instagram reporting a wait of up to three and a half hours.

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which had had to close Terminal B’s security checkpoint and ticketing lobby over the weekend due to the TSA absences, reported Tuesday that that area will remain closed today. Passengers are advised to arrive early, as rerouting may take time. Concourse G at Miami International Airport resumed normal operations on Monday.

In terms of the broader travel industry, new research by travel marketing firm MMGY Global suggests that the government shutdown is having a "substantial impact" on leisure travel and will likely continue to do so. Sixteen percent of U.S. travelers have already cancelled a vacation due to concerns about the shutdown. Fifty-five percent of respondents to the survey, which polled 400 U.S. travelers from January 10 – 11, said that they will still take a planned vacation during the next six months without hesitation, while 32 percent are planning to move forward but are monitoring the situation. Fourteen percent of respondents are unsure or are considering cancelling their vacation plans due to the shutdown.

Over the weekend the TSA reported an absence rate of 7.7 percent, more than double the rate of 3.2 percent at the same time one year ago. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has warned warned that the government shutdown could have a bigger impact on the travel industry the longer it continues, as the shutdown means government workers, including TSA screeners and air traffic controllers, need to work without pay.

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