Delta Air Lines Hiring Pilots While Expanding European Capacity

With more of Europe opening up, Delta Air Lines is laying on flights. The carrier celebrated the recent news of the Netherlands opening up. Home to one of the carrier’s European hubs and joint venture partner KLM, Delta will fly multiple daily flights to the Netherlands, including using swanky new aircraft. Separately, flights to Portugal will operate from August as Delta brings back its European schedule. All of this comes as Delta has announced it is once again hiring pilots.

Delta A330-900neo
Delta Air Lines is looking to resume pilot hiring as the recovery continues in earnest. It will also be adding more European frequencies in the coming weeks. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta looks at hiring 1,000 pilots

CNBC reports that Delta has sent out a memo indicating that it expects to hire more than 1,000 pilots by next summer. The airline, expecting to be profitable this month, now needs pilots to fuel its recovery and preserve its schedule.

Domestic leisure travel has come roaring back, and international travel is following, though a little more slowly than domestic bookings. Nevertheless, Delta is looking to enhance its connectivity across the United States and across the pond to Europe, where even more destinations are opening up for Americans.

Delta Air Lines Hiring Pilots While Expanding European Capacity
1,000 pilots is no small sum and represent the magnitude of the scale-up airlines need to do to handle the recovery. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta has faced some high-profile cancellations over the last year amid crew shortages. As air travel ramps up, pilots have proven to be a sticking point in the recovery. American Airlines, facing crew shortages, had to pull back a small portion of its anticipated flying, and United Airlines has similarly found some constraints with pilots.

Other airlines have turned to hiring as the recovery continues. This includes both United and Spirit Airlines. Delta had previously indicated it wanted to resume hiring this year and has now finally hit the market conditions where hiring makes a lot of sense.

Delta A220
The need for more pilots is great at Delta. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta expands in Europe

Already flying multiple daily flights to Amsterdam (AMS), Delta is set to engage in another round of significant expansion from early July. The airline will connect nearly all of its hubs again with the Dutch city. The airline will operate the following routes to the country:

  • Current twice-daily service from Atlanta (ATL) will turn into three daily flights from July 7th. A mix of Airbus A350-900 and A330-300s operate this route.
  • Daily service from Detroit (DTW) onboard an Airbus A350-900 will continue
  • Daily service from New York (JFK) onboard an Airbus A330-900neo will continue
  • Daily service from Seattle (SEA) onboard an Airbus A330-900neo will continue
  • Five times per week service from Boston (BOS) onboard an Airbus A330-300 will continue
  • Five times per week service from Minneapolis (MSP) will increase to daily service from July 7th. This route operates with an Airbus A330-300
  • Three-times-per-week service from Salt Lake City (SLC) will turn to five-times-per-week service from July 7th, utilizing an Airbus A330-200
Delta Air Lines Hiring Pilots While Expanding European Capacity
If you want to fly the Airbus A350 this summer on Delta, head over to Amsterdam, where the type will fly multiple daily frequencies from key hubs to Amsterdam. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This means that Delta will operate a peak of up to nine departures in a day to Amsterdam this July. An expansion of these services is expected into later 2021 and to 2022. This expansion is in line with Delta’s previous growth to opened markets like Iceland, France, and Croatia, among others.

Not all Amsterdam routes are returning as of yet. First, the airline is keeping frequencies out of Boston and Salt Lake City low for now. In addition, some non-hub routes, such as from Orlando and Tampa, are not currently scheduled to return this year.

Separately, Delta plans on resuming four times per week service to Lisbon (LIS) from its hub in New York (JFK). This flight will start on August 1st and utilize a Boeing 767-300ER.

DL 767-300er
Passengers can fly to Lisbon on a Boeing 767-300ER. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Another recent destination to reopen for Americans, Germany, will also see Delta service. The airline will fly only one daily flight to Frankfurt (FRA) from ATL onboard an Airbus A330-300. This is currently in operation and will continue.

Expanding significantly in Amsterdam makes a lot of sense for Delta. As more of Europe opens up, Delta may not have the planes and ability to add flying to many destinations. Instead, it can funnel passengers through Amsterdam onto further destinations via its partnership with KLM.

For example, passengers who want to visit places like Munich, Porto, Malaga, or other destinations that Delta is not currently flying to nonstop, can connect in Amsterdam. While Delta may not be flying full planes there, it will at least have the capacity to cater to those travelers.

DL 767
One key European destination, the UK, remains closed. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The recovery continues

The US airline industry is recovering in earnest. International travel is coming back, though Delta is now expecting a better fall for flights to Europe than the summer. Nevertheless, as passengers come back to the sky, it begs the question of whether Delta has the fleet it needs to service this demand.

The airline cut hundreds of planes from its fleet in 2020 and announced further retirements of the entire Boeing 717 and 767-300ER fleets by 2025. On the regional side, the CRJ200s will depart by 2023.

Delta CRJ200
Perhaps no other aircraft in Delta’s fleet is as disliked among passengers as the CRJ200s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta has mostly maintained its order book, save for canceling the purchase of used A350 aircraft from LATAM. Save for expanding the Airbus A321neo order book, Delta’s 200+ aircraft order book will not be fully delivered until after 2023, which could be problematic.

The airline has a few options. It can seek to accelerate deliveries, which Airbus may not be able to provide. Or, it can go out to the used market and find some options there. There was a rumor recently that Delta was looking at picking up some used Boeing 737-900ERs and Airbus A350-900s.

Delta 737-900
Delta is one of the largest operators of the Boeing 737-900. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

This would not be a new strategy for Delta. It has turned to the used market to power expansion and replacement in its fleet. This includes strategic acquisitions of McDonnell Douglas MD jets and Boeing 717s.

The last option could be that Delta delays the planned retirements. While perhaps not the best option from a cost perspective, the airline is clearly in a position to fall behind its peers when considering its fleet size and the ongoing pace of the recovery. There could be a case, however, for hanging onto the Boeing 767-300ERs, as those are set to undergo some strange retrofits.

Delta 717
Keeping the Boeing 717s would help the airline maintain enhanced domestic connectivity on short-haul routes, but they may be getting too old and costly to deserve a stay of retirement. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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When Asia-Pacific does open up, Delta will need to ensure it serves those markets adequately, most of which require the Airbus A350 and previously saw most of the airline’s Boeing 777 flying.

The resumption of pilot hiring and the return of more international frequencies is good news. The goal is to make sure the airline does not get out over its skis and face operational disruptions that can leave a sour perception with the public.

Are you glad to see Delta want to hire 1,000 pilots by next year? Will you fly Delta to Europe this summer? Let us know in the comments!