MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Delta Air Lines lost $5.7 billion in the second quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic crushed air travel. A hoped-for travel recovery that began slowly in mid-April has been smothered by a resurgence in U.S. infections, especially in the South and West.

n January, business was soaring for MSP’s largest air carrier. A record year meant employees all employees got a February 14th bonus check. A month later, COVID-19 all but brought the industry to a halt.

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian says growth in bookings has stalled. He says it was “growing at a pretty nice clip through June,” but so was the virus.

“Given the combined effects of the pandemic and associated financial impact on the global economy, we continue to believe that it will be more than two years before we see a sustainable recovery. In this difficult environment, the strengths that are core to Delta’s business – our people, our brand, our network and our operational reliability – guide every decision we make, differentiating Delta with our customers and positioning us to succeed when demand returns,” Bastian said.

Delta is the first U.S. airline to report financial results for the May-through-June quarter, and the numbers were ugly. Delta’s latest earning report shows the cold hard numbers — 17,000 employees took early retirement, 35,000 are taking unpaid leave, and passenger load is down 93% from last year. Last year at this time, flights were operating at about 88%, and now they’re at 34%.

In other words, the company is burning about $27 million per day, which is actually an improvement from the $100 million the company was losing this spring during the peak of the travel slowdown.

WCCO’s Marielle Mohs spoke with an expert who follows these trends who said all airlines will be showing similar if not worse earnings than Delta over the next month. Kyle Potter, editor of Thrifty Traveler, a Minnesota based flight deal and travel website, says this will mean air travel will look different for a long time.

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Potter said this biggest loss in guaranteed business travel. Until that returns, expect fewer daily flight options to domestic locations and fewer international flights all together.

“Delta has cut almost all its international flight out of MSP aside from a few to Canada. And it’s probably going to be quite a long time until some of those return. Some of them may not return at all,” Potter said.

At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the direct flight to Mexico City has been canceled and the newest direct flight to Dublin has also been canceled.

Jamar Lawson is one of those choosing to fly, for a very extenuating circumstance: his aunt just died of COVID-19. He’s cautiously flying to Washington for his aunt’s memorial.

“Just keep my mask on. Not much of this touching,” Lawson said.

Unlike some of the other airlines, Delta has been taking more costly safety precautions — including not selling the middle seats on flights, guaranteeing no flights will be filled to capacity. They also offered a lot of flexibility on cancelling and rebooking flights, already giving $2.2 billion back in cash refunds this year. That’s more money in return than money earned.

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(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield