Delta Mulls Pilot Furloughs As Allegiant Lays Off Employees

Last Friday, Delta Air Lines announced that it would be sending out notices regarding the possibility of furloughing 2,500 pilots. This news comes as airlines around the world continue to grapple with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Delta Mulls Pilot Furloughs As Allegiant Lays Off Employees
Some Delta pilots have taken early retirement, but more need to go. Photo: Getty Images

Las Vegas-based low-cost carrier Allegiant Air is also tightening its belt by eliminating 220 positions. Allegiant’s president John Redmond announced the redundancies to employees via an internal memo on Monday afternoon.

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Delta to send out “WARN” notices next week

Despite having reached a tentative agreement regarding the early retirement of some of its pilots with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), a Delta spokesperson said, in a statement carried by Reuters,

“In an effort to best prepare our pilots should furloughs be needed, Delta will send required notices to approximately 2,500 pilots,” adding that the so-called ‘WARN’ notices will be sent next week.

When commenting on the tentative early retirement agreement with Delta and some of its pilots, a spokesperson for ALPA said that a letter Delta sent out had been “poorly received” by its members.

“Early retirements alone likely won’t be enough to avoid pilot furloughs altogether,” Senior Vice President of Flight Operations at Delta, John Laughter, said in the internal memo on Friday. He added that the Atlanta-based airline hoped that involuntary job losses could be avoided.

Delta getty
Delta to add 1,000 flights to its August schedule. Photo: Getty Images

On June 25, Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian said that the airline was adding 1,000 flights to its August schedule but not many more for the remainder of 2020.

“While it’s encouraging to see flights returning … we likely remain at least two years away from a return to normal,” Bastian said.

Allegiant is reliant on the leisure travel market

Despite not being as large an airline as Delta is, Allegiant Air has to deal with its own problems, which include the Las Vegas leisure market. Of the 220 positions that were eliminated, only 87 of them were jobs that are currently being staffed. The other 133 had either been removed before the COVID-19 medical emergency or were still in the recruitment phase.

Terminated Allegiant Air employees will be paid through September 30 and will keep their medical benefits until the end of the year.

“But be assured we were deliberate in choosing timing that will give people as much notice as possible to seek other opportunities,” Redmond said in the memo. “We thank our teammates for their dedicated service and the critical role they have played in getting us to this point.”

Redmond said that Allegiant Air has no further plans to reduce staff and is moving forward during these testing times. It noted a severe downturn in April when Las Vegas casinos were forced to close. Allegiant had just 199 passengers at McCarran International Airport (LAS) in April, and while it jumped up to 20,268 in May, it was still 90% down on 2019 numbers.

Allegiant depends heavily on leisure travelers. Photo: Getty Images

When speaking about COVID-19 with the Las Vegas Review-Journal Redmond said,

“Today, more people are flying, but recent increases in COVID-19 cases have chilled our momentum in bookings, and so the roller coaster will continue — no one can know for how long.

“While July will show increased traffic compared to previous months, it is followed by our traditional fall slowdown. Unlike pre-pandemic, we are unable to forecast what the outcome will be for fall and into 2021.”

Many of the lost jobs are never coming back

The full impact of coronavirus on airline employees is only going to worsen when the government money that is funding many of the furloughs comes to an end. Then we might not be talking about hundreds of people losing their jobs but thousands. 

What do you think the airline industry will look like post-COVID-19? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.