April 19, 2021

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Delta will use frequent-flyer program to back $6.5 billion in debt

Delta Air Lines passenger planes are seen parked due to flight reductions made to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Birmingham, Alabama, March 25, 2020.

Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

Delta Air Lines said Monday that it will borrow $6.5 billion backed by its frequent-flyer program, the third airline to tap loyalty platforms to shore up liquidity during the coronavirus crisis.

The airline plans to sell senior secured notes and enter into a new credit facility, both backed by its SkyMiles program. SkyMiles will lend the net proceeds of the bond offering to Delta, although a portion will go to a reserve account.

United Airlines announced plans in June to use its frequent-flyer program, MileagePlus, to back a $5 billion loan. American Airlines has said it also plans to use its program to as collateral for a nearly $5 billion federal loan.

Delta shares were up 1.6% in premarket trading after it announced the new debt plan. 

The Atlanta-based airline and its rivals have scrambled to shore up liquidity as the coronavirus pandemic devastated travel demand this year. The $2 trillion CARES Act in March set aside $25 billion in airline payroll support that prohibits job cuts until Oct. 1 and made available another $25 billion in federal loans. Delta said it doesn’t plan to pursue the loan, joining Southwest Airlines in sticking with other sources of liquidity.

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