Delta Air Lines has asked pilots to take a temporary cut in paid minimum flying hours in order to drive labor costs down and in turn help the carrier avoid involuntary furloughs. The Atlanta-based airline, which reported a near $6 billion loss in the second quarter, said in an internal memo on Friday that a 15 per cent cut in pay could help save the jobs of 2,558 pilots who have been told they are at risk of being furloughed.
The Air Lines Pilots Association (APLA) reacted with anger to the request, saying Delta was attempting to negotiate in public with the leaking of the memo and that its members were “frustrated” with the “implied threats” allegedly made by Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations, John Laughter.
Laughter told pilots the proposal was to reduce pay for around 12-months and would be increased as demand for air travel slowly returned. The memo said Delta was “committed to preventing involuntary furloughs for as many, if not all, Delta people,” but that concessions would be required to avoid lay-offs.
“Demand is still down about 80%, and we don’t expect to see measurable improvement until the U.S. infection rates fall again,” the memo explained. Passenger numbers passing through U.S. airports are currently down around 75 per cent on 2019’s levels and a surge in new Coronavirus cases across some States is suppressing future bookings.
Delta chief executive Ed Bastian told investors last week that travel demand was currently plateauing and a significant increase in passenger numbers might not be seen until the end of the Summer. International flying is likely to remain depressed for some time as countries restrict access to American travellers.
“We’ve pulled back some of the additional flying we had on the August schedule and don’t foresee adding much back through the remainder of the year,” Laughter cautioned in Friday’s note to pilots.
“Our approach is to spread the work of a smaller airline among all our pilots to preserve all jobs that would be unheard of in our history,” the memo continued. In June, pilots flew an average of just 10-hours in the entire month. That is set to rise to 15-hours in August.
“COVID is a crisis, no doubt, but there are tried-and-true methods the rest of the industry is using; yet Delta refuses,” Captain Ryan Schnitzler, Chairman of the ALPA Delta Master Council told pilots in response.
“Management is treating the 2,558 pilots who received WARN Act notices like hostages… Let’s call this for what it is: a blatant attempt to cause pain to organized labor at Delta,” the letter continued.
Delta has offered both voluntary retirement options and voluntary leaves of absence to reduce the need for furloughs. So far, more than 17,000 Delta staffers have opted to take an early-out, while over 45,000 employees have taken some form of leave of absence.
Last week, American Airlines sent furlough warning notices to 25,000 of its employees, including 2,500 pilots.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.