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In retrospect, 2019 was a halcyon year for the travel industry. Fuel was cheap, travel demand was high, and as the only major U.S. airline without Boeing 737 MAX planes in its fleet, Delta sidestepped the fallout from their grounding. Annual revenue rose 5.8% to $47 billion, and net income jumped 21.1% to $4.8 billion, giving Delta its tenth straight year of profitability—if likely the last it will see for some time. After the pandemic closed down most airline travel and led Delta and its competitors to seek government aid, CEO Ed Bastian predicted that Delta will need at least three years to get back to a sustainable—but still sub-2019—level of travel. As Bastian told Fortune: “This is going to take a long time.”
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