Delta CEO Says Airline Is Expecting More Than 5 Million Travelers for Thanksgiving Week

A Christmas tree stands in a terminal at Leipzig-Halle Airport in Germany

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Delta Air Lines is expecting more than 5 million travelers to take to the skies with the carrier over the Thanksgiving holiday week, and its CEO says the airline is ready for the crowds.

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said the airline was “absolutely prepared” for the holiday rush in an interview with the Today Show on Tuesday. His remarks follow a summer that saw widespread chaos fueled by a combination of staffing shortages and air traffic control issues. As a result, several airlines cut back schedules to minimize disruptions, including Delta.

To that end, Bastian said the airline has hired 25,000 people since the start of last year.

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.”

Things have gotten better since the summer, but Department of Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg recently predicted that while holiday air travel will likely be an improvement from then, it still won’t be perfect. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who participated in the same interview as Buttigieg last month, admitted air travel would likely never be without some issues since the system is “tight.”

Beyond the holidays, Bastian addressed the idea of shrinking airline seat sizes. In August, the Federal Aviation Administration published a notice seeking public comment on the pitch, width, and length of passenger seats on aircraft.

Bastian declined to comment on the FAA’s research, but said he was happy with the seating pattern at Delta.

“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.”

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