Delta Still Trying To Avoid Furloughs Despite Pilot Surplus

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Delta Air Lines and its pilots’ union are still trying to avoid furloughing over 2,300 pilots. This comes after the results of a Sunday bid saw the airline with a surplus of pilots even after shifting around 7,000 of them across bases and aircraft types. Now, the airline is trying to minimize furloughs.

Delta A220
Delta Air Lines is working with its pilots’ union to minimize furloughs. Photo: Getty Images

Working to avoid furloughs

Reuters reports that Delta and its pilots’ union are working to avoid furloughing 2,327 unassigned pilots. The airline had its pilots bid for positions across its US bases on a variety of different aircraft types. 7,000 pilot positions were available. Previously, the number had been anticipated to be as high as 2,500 pilots.

On May 25th, Capt. Ryan Schnitzler, Chairman of the Delta Master Executive Council at the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), released a letter detailing the bid. He noted the following:

“Undoubtedly, processing the largest surplus bid in our history and how it impacts you and your family has weighed on us all since it was posted. No maatt er where you sit on the seniority list, the impact of being displaced – and its impact on your quality of life – is stressful. Some of you may have to commute for the first me in your career or slide back into the right seat after a recent upgrade.”

Delta pilots
Some of Delta’s pilots may have to move around or else train on a different aircraft. Photo: Delta Air Lines

When will pilots be furloughed?

Delta still has time to minimize furloughs, and tourism still has some opportunity to tick up and require Delta to bring back more pilots to the sky. This is because of the stipulations placed by the United States government.

Back in April, Delta Air Lines accessed funds that the federal government allocated to airlines under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funding supported employee wages through September 30th. In the meantime, no airline could furlough or layoff any employees. In addition, US airlines had to maintain a minimum amount of air service– meaning the airline needed to keep pilots flying and active.

Delta Air Lines
Delta received $5.4 billion in government aid in April. Photo: Getty Images

However, from October 1st, it is all up in the air. The number of pilots Delta will need depends mostly on how the air travel industry recovers. Delta is seeking to match staffing through summer 2021. By then, there should be a decent amount of recovery that could warrant the return of specific currently suspended routes.

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Delta Shanghai
Delta has decided to retire its 18 Boeing 777s by the end of this year. Photo: Getty Images

Still, most industry experts and organizations believe that airlines will need at least three or four years to see the same number of passengers as they did in 2019. This puts a damper on expansion plans that would have seen airlines adding hundreds of new planes and, thus, new jobs. Instead, airlines are retiring older jets. Delta is doing away with Boeing 777s and the MD family of aircraft, which are making their last flights on June 2nd. However, the airline will be using the A350 and A321neos to replace some of that lost capacity.

Much of the outcome for pilots will depend on how travel rebounds. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Early-outs could be on the table

Delta’s management has presented ALPA with voluntary early-out programs. The union is still working with Delta to get the best options for employees. Delta, on its part, has indicated that it would prefer for voluntary reductions in its workforce.

Nevertheless, it is a very fluid situation right now. Both sides are still working out ways to minimize furloughs. However, short of a massive return of international and domestic travel, Delta will likely have to furlough a decent number of pilots.

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Do you think Delta and ALPA will be able to minimize pilot furloughs successfully? Let us know in the comments!

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