MIAMI – Delta Air Lines (DL) will furlough approximately 2,000 Pilots in October. The exact number of Pilots, 1,941, will be stood down due to a lack of demand for a full staff.

The airline also warns of further involuntary furloughs to follow; blaming COVID-19 and resulting low demand for travel as the primary factor.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-432ER (N842MH). | Photo: © Nick Van Der Hook

Too Many Pilots, Too Little Flights

John Laughter, Head of Flight Operations at Delta, sent a memo to pilots on Monday. Simple Flying shared the memo that said: “We are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision,” wrote Mr. Laughter. He says there were 11,200 pilots on Delta’s payroll after calls for voluntary early departures. But the airline says they need only 9,500 pilots across the short to medium term.

“We are six months into this pandemic, and only 25% of our revenues have been recovered. Unfortunately, we see few catalysts over the next six months to meaningful(ly) change this trajectory.” Reads the memo to pilots.

In a statement, Delta’s Pilots’ union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), called the decision dissapointing.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A321-211 (N380DN). | Photo: © Tyler Lorenz

Delta Asked for Voluntary Redundancies

In mid-July, DL told its Pilots they would avoid involuntary furloughs if they agreed to reduced guaranteed minimum pay. At the time, the airline wanted to reduce minimum Pilot pay by 15% in exchange for no pilot furloughs for at least a year.

Delta actively worked on cutting expenditure and requested 17,000 employees to take voluntary redundancies, including calling for the release of 1,700 Pilots by July 19.

“We’re committed to exhausting every option possible and harnessing our creativity before we consider involuntary separations,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a July memo to Delta employees; “We’re continuing to work with our pilots’ elected representatives to avoid pilot furloughs.”

However, ALPA says Delta has done the opposite. The union believes that the airline is using the threat of furloughs to pressure Pilots into accepting redundancy packages.

CNBC reported that around 1,800 Delta pilots accepted the packages, 100 more than Delta asked. However, it still will not be enough. “ALPA has drafted numerous, mutually beneficial proposals that would provide the airline with voluntary cost-savings measures,” said the union in a statement.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200 (N649DL). | Photo: © Shon Fridman (IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation)

Delta Preparing for The Storm

On Monday John Laughter said: “Early retirements alone wouldn’t solve the Pilot overstaffing situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 cut faster and deeper than any other event in the history of our industry.”

“Letters to Pilots hired on or after July 17, 2017, will be sent out later this week.”

Delta Airlines Boeing 767-332ER (N1602). | Photo: © Roberto Leiro

An Industry in a State of Nonexistence

As the US airlines approach the cut-off date for governmental funding, other American carriers are expected to make similar tough decisions. Delta’s memo also highlights the increase of the COVID-19 impact in comparison with the initial forecast.

The industry continues to remain in limbo as there remains no quick rebound in sight.

Delta acknowledges the significance of the furloughs for Pilots and their families and is working on a “multi-year recovery,” which should bring its pilots back as soon as possible.

As uncertainty looms for its Pilots, just yesterday DL announced more trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific flights to top business and leisure destinations for the winter 2020-2021 and summer 2021 seasons.

Featured Image: Delta Air Lines