Delta Air Lines reported a net loss of $5.4 billion for the third quarter as the Covid-19 pandemic continued its massive impact on air travel.

The losses came as Delta earned revenue of $3.06 billion from July through September, down 76% year over year and $60 million below analyst expectations, according to the investing website Seeking Alpha.

The third quarter was the second in a row in which Delta reported losses in excess of $5 billion. This quarter's losses included $4 billion in one-time expenses directly related to the pandemic, including aircraft retirements and payouts to thousands of employees who accepted voluntary separation and early retirement offers. Excluding such expenses, Delta's third-quarter losses amounted to $2.2 billion.

Despite the dismal figures, the airline is reporting modest improvements in operating conditions. Buoyed by slowly increasing bookings and reductions in salaries and other expenses, Delta reduced its daily cash burn from $27 million at the start of the quarter to $18 million by the end of September, CFO Paul Jacobson said on an earnings call Tuesday.

Jacobson projected that daily cash burn during the fourth quarter will drop to between $10 million and $12 million as revenue ticks up.

All told, Delta expects to burn through approximately $1 billion in cash in the fourth quarter, leaving it with $16 billion in liquidity.

During the summer quarter, Delta flew just 37% of its capacity from a year earlier and with a load factor of just 41%, down from an 88% load factor in the summer of 2019.

The carrier expects to fly in the fourth quarter between 50% and 60% of the capacity that it offered last fall.

In one piece of modestly good news, company president Glen Hauenstein said corporate flying is finally starting to tick upward and is now approximately 15% of last year's level.

Roughly 90% of Delta's corporate customers now are at least flying some employees, CEO Ed Bastian said.

Delta stock was off slightly more than 2% in early afternoon trading. 

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