Here Is How Delta Avoided Flight Attendant Furloughs

The global health crisis has rocked the aviation industry this year, with thousands of jobs at risk. However, Delta Air Lines has found ways to avoid involuntary furloughs of flight attendants and other staff in the United States. The airline has today shared details about how it is adapting.

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Delta’s leadership is grateful for its employees’ efforts. Photo: Delta Air Lines

In it together

In an employee memo seen by Simple Flying, Delta CEO Ed Bastian spoke of the challenges that the company and its staff are facing during this unprecedented time. Despite the struggles, he said that the airline’s strength of character has been prevalent.

Therefore, the Atlanta-based carrier can focus on its three internal priorities. These are protecting staff health and safety as well as their jobs, preserving liquidity and cash balance to overcome the crisis, and positioning the business for the future.

Bastian acknowledges that it’s the sacrifices that employees are making across Delta that are helping the company cope amid the income drop. Notably, over 40,000 staff members voluntarily signed up for short and long-term unpaid leaves of absence. There has been a strong response to the enhanced early retirement and departure packages that the firm offered this summer. Altogether, 20% of the airline’s employees chose to leave voluntarily.

Subsequently, these moves helped save the jobs of many workers throughout the company. Moreover, it wasn’t only people leaving that helped others keep positions. Delta’s 25% reduction in work hours for its ground staff also played a vital role in job protection.

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Ed Bastian Delta
Bastian is forgoing his salary, while all officers’ salaries are being reduced by 50% through the end of the year. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Adapting to change

The firm has now effectively managed its staffing between the present time and the start of next summer’s peak travel season. Employees in departments such as Airport Customer Service, Cargo, Reservations, TechOps, and In-Flight all fall under this plan.

There are also several other innovative ways that Delta and its staff are adapting during the pandemic. For instance, its flight attendants are supporting catering efforts. Additionally, they are participating in creative solutions such as a Fly On/Off program. This initiative is a rotating month-on, month-off schedule.

Delta Flight Attendant
Flight attendants are essential to ensure that operations run smoothly amid the sensitive climate. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Additionally, Delta is looking inward to take on customer service roles at the airport. For example, wheelchair handling is being insourced. Other jobs such as aircraft servicing, cargo handling, and into-plane fueling could also follow suit.

Furthermore, Delta is leveraging its maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) partnerships with Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce to secure TechOps work. The airline is also spreading a large volume of work across phone-based customer service teams to ensure specialists are training to handle all types of calls. This strategy will help secure jobs down the line.

Worthy efforts

Delta highlights how valuable its flight attendants are to its customers during these uncertain times by sharing a story from a passenger. The Minneapolis resident said that the airline’s employees went the extra mile to help out.

“The entire Delta team was so helpful to me and to my disabled husband on our most recent trip. Everyone went out of their way to make sure this 90-year-old Korean War Veteran was able to board the flight safely, make connections in Minneapolis, and deplane safely to awaiting family members,” the passenger said, as shared in Delta’s memo.

“The care and concern expressed by the flight attendants and other Delta team members on the flights more than exceeded our expectations. Thank you for all you do during these challenging times to make the Delta flying experience successful for our family.”

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The airline is still flying only 30% of the passenger volumes that it had this time last year. Photo: Getty Images

Still plenty of challenges

Despite these proactive measures, Delta’s pilots could still face furloughs from the beginning of next month as the terms of the CARES Act will end. However, the carrier is still going through talks with its aviators to find ways to handle the situation. Additionally, like several other airlines, the operator is backing the extension of the act. Regardless of the outcome, Bastian’s team will continue to work with the government to find a solution.

Nonetheless, Bastian is aware that the road to recovery won’t be straightforward. It could be a while for the industry to recover, even after there is a vaccine due to the impact of the virus on the global economy. However, these measures in place are helping Delta limit the damage over the next year when it comes to jobs.

What are your thoughts about how Delta Air Lines avoided flight attendant furloughs? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.