Delta Prepares For Future As It Brings Back Pilots And Adds New Executive

Around 400 pilots and a doctor are getting some good news today as Delta prepares for the future. Putting payroll support funds to use, the airline will be bringing back pilots to active status by this summer, and it has hired a new “Chief Health Officer.”

Delta Boeing 737
Delta Air Lines plans to add 400 pilots back to active flying status. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Delta to bring back 400 pilots

In a memo to flight operations employees, John Laughter, SVP and Chief of Operations at Delta, outlined that the airline will be bringing additional pilot staffing back in advance of summer 2022.

The airline is bringing 400 pilots affected by the workforce reductions in 2020 back to active flying status by this summer. The move will help shore up the airline’s staffing as it prepares for the road ahead.

Delta pilots
Delta is adding these pilots ahead of what it expects will be a busier summer season this year but is mostly getting ready for summer 2022 Photo: Getty Images

The memo also outlined that the airline is still cautiously optimistic and hopes to restore all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues. However, the outlook remains uncertain, and demand is still quite low as the vaccine rollout takes longer than expected. The carrier is expecting an inflection point and rise in demand to come from the spring.

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The staffing should help

Many will remember Delta’s operational meltdowns over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Delta, which prides itself on its operational reliability, suffered some damage. On the airline’s fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Ed Bastian stated the following on the mass cancelations:

“We certainly had a much better Christmas holiday than the Thanksgiving break. There were a number of factors going on in the staffing levels of the company with a lot of the changes that we had implemented.

“And you couple that with COVID, and some of the exposures which everyone is seeing, the no-fly capability of some of our staffing, which came in. We learned from that for Thanksgiving. We made some pretty aggressive changes in December in terms of getting the schedule fine-tuned to anticipate that.”

There were some external factors, such as the massive snowstorm that hit one of the airline’s hubs, Minneapolis/St. Paul, just before Christmas, that also led to the airline canceling flights proactively.

Delta Boeing 757
Delta faced operational disruptions due to staffing shortages over both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Ultimately, having more pilots means more people who can serve as backups. If more pilots are sick and cannot operate the flights or face quarantines, the airline can hopefully have enough reserve staff to operate on critical days.

Heading into the traditionally busy summer season, Delta will also need to keep all hands on deck to respond to any rise in demand and have the staffing to add flights where it needs to.

Adding a new executive

Delta Air Lines has hired Dr. Henry Ting from the Mayo Clinic to be the carrier’s first Chief Health Officer. Delta and the Mayo Clinic have been partners since the early days of the pandemic. The airline has relied on medical experts’ advice to make the travel experience safer for its customers and crew.

Dr. Ting is currently serving as a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. He corks as the Chief Value Officer and has extensive experience in patient care, medical research, education, and management, according to Delta.

Dr. Henry Ting
Dr. Henry Ting will be Delta’s Chief Health Officer. Photo: Delta Air Lines

The airline has consistently stated that its number one priority is to safeguard the health and safety of both customers and crew. From the early days of the crisis, the airline has instituted measures such as blocking seats, streamlining meal services, and mandating face masks for customers.

Dr. Ting’s hiring shows that the airline wants to keep its focus on health for years to come. The airline knows that, even after vaccinations do become more widespread, it needs to keep people comfortable with the idea of getting back on a plane and being relatively close to many other travelers.

Mr. Bastian stated in a memo that Dr. Ting’s role will involve “rethinking and reimagining our approach to health and well-being, utilizing new technologies, artificial intelligence, data strategies, and innovative partnerships.”

Delta Air Lines, Italy, Quarantine Free
Delta is hoping its focus on health and safety will keep passengers loyal and get them back on planes once travelers are comfortable to fly again. Photo: Getty Images

It appears that Dr. Ting will be doing a lot of building up his role from scratch. There is usually a period of a few months where a new executive begins to craft their vision for their role and the goals they want to reach in their roles. After he officially joins Delta on February 15th, expect further details to come out about what Dr. Ting wants to accomplish.

Are you glad to see Delta prepare for the recovery and a post-crisis world? Do you think these hiring decisions are the right ones for the airline? Let us know in the comments!