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Delta Air Lines Delays Pilot Furloughs Until November 1 as Talks with Union Continue

Delta Air Lines Delays Pilot Furloughs Until November 1 as Talks with Union Continue

Delta Air Lines has put off a decision to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots until November 1 – a month later than originally planned – so that talks with the pilots union can continue. In contrast to other airlines, including United and JetBlue, the Atlanta-based airline has so far failed to reach an agreement with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) that would prevent the need for involuntary furloughs when federal payroll support runs out at the end of September.

In a memo sent to Delta’s pilots, ALPA said the decision would allow both the union and Delta to continue lobbying for a “clean extension” of the CARES Act and payroll support program. ALPA also said it would resume negotiations with Delta in a bid to avoid the involuntary furlough of 1,941 pilots.

ALPA has previously hit out at Delta’s decision to push ahead with the involuntary furloughs, claiming the airline was using the threat of lay-off’s to “force acceptance of involuntary concessions.”

Unlike many workgroups which can be easily furloughed and brought back to work at short notice, airlines are at pains to avoid involuntary pilot furloughs because of the time and money required to retrain pilots when demand picks up. Pilots at United, for example, have accepted a reduction in minimum flying hours to avoid the need for redundancies.

Non-unionized Delta employees, including flight attendants and ground staff, have already been told they’ll be spared involuntary furlough on October 1, in part because of the “shared sacrifice” of workers.

More than 40,000 employees have volunteered to take unpaid leaves of absence and 17,000 employees opted to leave the company earlier than they may have originally planned through voluntary packages

Flight attendants have accepted a ‘Fly Share’ program that will see some crew working one month on, one month off until demand picks up. Others have agreed to be redeployed to Delta’s catering business.

Several days ago, two Republican senators introduced the Air Carrier Worker Support Extension Act, valued at $28 billion and which would extend airline payroll support through to the end of March 2021. While still too early to tell whether the Bill will be approved by Congress, if successful, thousands of previously announced involuntary furloughs will likely be rescinded.

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