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Delta Planning To Furlough Nearly 2,000 Pilots In The Coming Months 

Delta Air Lines is currently projected to furlough 1,941 pilots by October 1st due an over-staffing problem amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision is basically official, as the airline sent a memo to all employees this past Monday claiming the only way the furlough’s won’t be happening is if some sort of deal can be reached with their union. 

Delta currently has around 11,200 active pilots working for them. By next summer the company is projecting they’ll only need about 9,450 for next summer based on travel data that’s been collected throughout the past six months during the pandemic. Senior Vice President of flight operations, John Laughter, wrote the memo to pilots where he broke the news. 

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Next summer we expect to see the peak flying for the next 12-18 months. We are simply overstaffed and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision.” 

Airlines, and the travel industry in general, has been hit especially hard during the coronavirus pandemic, which makes sense considering the main way individuals can avoid potential infection is by staying home and not travelling at all, especially if it means travelling with a big group in an enclosed space. 

Delta received over $5.4 billion from the CARES Act in order to maintain proper payroll for their employees. The financial aid also came with a promise from the company that they would avoid furloughing employees until at least October 1st, and now that the date is approaching and the pandemic has only worsened in America, they realized that they would need to follow through. 

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20% of Delta’s workforce – around 17,000 employees – took the company up on a voluntary buyout package as the October date got closer and closer. It’s currently projected that all airline companies in America will likely come out of this pandemic much smaller than they were in the beginning of it, Delta included. 

These projections have caused airline executives to urge their employees to take the voluntary buyouts or a voluntary unpaid leave of absence until the future became more clear. 1,806 Delta pilots took early retirement packages, however, Laughter claims that still isn’t enough to avoid the furloughs. He claims that Delta is currently earning about 1/4th of the revenue they made this time last year.

Pilots that were hired after July 17th, 2017 are the most at risk for being furloughed due to contractual obligations between Delta and its more established pilots. While the pandemic isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, Laughter claims that the airline does have the full intention of bringing back all furloughed employees when things return to normalcy. 

“Though we expect a multi-year recovery, we will work diligently to bring you back to Delta as soon as we can, if demand recovers better than we are anticipating.”

The memo added that if the airline and the pilot’s union can reach an agreement that allows Delta to reduce costs, furloughing may be avoided. It can also be avoided if the CARES Act extends their payroll support program.

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