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Delta Air Lines Delays Pilot Furloughs To Nov. 1 As Negotiations Continue

pilots
Credit: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines will delay plans to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots until Nov. 1, as talks between management and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) continue over proposed cost-cutting measures. 

In a memo to pilots sent Sept. 22, viewed by Aviation Daily, Delta SVP-flight operations John Laughter said management decided to push back the effective date for pilot furloughs to Nov. 1, in an attempt to buy more time for negotiators representing the airline and ALPA to hammer out an agreement that would take furloughs off the table.

The Atlanta-based company was previously planning to furlough 1,941 pilots beginning Oct. 1, although a separate tentative agreement reached with ALPA last week would reduce that amount by 220 to 1,741 planned furloughs.

Delta originally warned 2,558 pilots of coming furloughs this past summer, although that figure was reduced after more than 1,800 pilots agreed to early-retirement packages. The airline still has 11,200 pilots on its active roster, while management expects to only need 9,500 pilots to staff its summer 2021 schedule, translating to a surplus of 1,700 pilots for at least another year. 

“We look forward to working with the Negotiating Committee to reach a deal–supporting our goal to make it through this prolonged recovery without involuntary furloughs,” Laughter said. “The recovery won’t be over in six months, so sharing the available work is the only way to avoid furloughs altogether.”

The ALPA Delta Master Executive Council (MEC) will meet this week in a special session to discuss the no-furlough proposal, which would allow the company to save all pilot jobs without making permanent changes to their collective bargaining agreement, and would be temporary with the recovery. The MEC will also consider the tentative agreement to reduce furloughs by 220 pilots, which would involve allowing pilots to bid for reduced flying lines, thus spreading out the available flying among more pilots.

“ALPA’s focus will remain on our efforts seeking creative solutions with Delta to achieve a win-win agreement that preserves pilot jobs, while positioning Delta to springboard back to where they were pre-COVID,” Delta MEC spokesman Chris Riggins said in a statement. “Keeping these employees working will invigorate our economy, avert the depletion of state and federal resources and firmly place the airline industry in the starting blocks for a quick rebound after we tame the virus.”

The move to hold off on furloughs for another month comes as U.S. airlines are scrambling to avoid the scope of expected job losses following the end of federal payroll support on Oct. 1. While specifics remain unknown, Riggins compared the proposed deal to a recent agreement reached by United Airlines that averted nearly 3,000 pilot furloughs at that carrier. Delta has previously struck deals that removed the need for furloughs among its flight attendants and ground-based front-line workers. If successful, the latest proposal could enable Delta to avoid widescale involuntary furloughs among all its workgroups.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Washington, Ben covers Congress, regulatory agencies, the Departments of Justice and Transportation and lobby groups.