Delta Air Lines, the air carrier, is seeing different responses to COVID-19 when it looks at factors like demographics and customer location within the US, and can use such insights in shaping its response to the crisis.

Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive officer, discussed this subject during a presentation given at J.P. Morgan’s Industrials conference.

The simultaneous decline in corporate and leisure travel, he argued, separates the current situation from the consequences of the financial downturn of 2008/09.

“I think you're seeing a suspension of activities – whether it be corporate activities, group activities, [or] events where people get together in large numbers – all of which impact our demand set,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: What Delta Air Lines’ response to COVID-19 can teach other brands.)

Understanding the 5Ws – the who, what, where, when and why – for the customers who are boarding its planes is critical for Delta as it ascertains the potential short- and longer-term implications of COVID-19 for its business.

And the firm has uncovered various knowledge points pertaining specifically to the consumer reaction to the pandemic, according to Glen Hauenstein, Delta’s president.

One example of this involves demographics. “Millennials tend to travel much less, with much less impact than people over 55,” he said.

Geographical factors are also at work when it comes to who is still flying. “The West Coast is more impacted than the East Coast,” continued Hauenstein.

“This is a really event-driven thing until now. And we'll monitor it as we go through, but … this is more of an event-driven, than a full-blown, recession in the corporate environment at this point,” he added.

As the crisis is not a result of pre-existing structural flaws in the airline sector, Bastian also expressed optimism that prior behaviours would return once the COVID-19 threat recedes.

“We do believe, on the other side of this, that people [will fly again] – there's no fundamental reason why people don't want to travel or are afraid to travel once the virus issue is contained,” he said.