Delta, ALPA Reach Tentative Deal To Avoid 1,900 Pilot Furloughs

Delta Air Lines pilots

Delta Air Lines has reached a tentative deal with the union representing its pilots to avoid more than 1,900 previously planned furloughs through at least January 2022.

The Atlanta-based carrier had warned 1,941 pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), of potential furloughs effective Oct. 1, although that date was later pushed out until Nov. 1 to provide time for management and ALPA to hash out a deal that would take furloughs off the table. 

As part of the agreement, Delta will reduce pilots’ minimum monthly guaranteed hours by 5%, which ALPA said will “generate savings for the company while it is dealing with the impact of the [COVID-19] pandemic.” Additionally, the 1,900-plus pilots who received furlough warnings this summer will receive 30 hr. of pay per month through January 2022, with no flying obligation or restrictions on outside employment in the meantime.

The terms of the tentative agreement will be suspended in the event that Congress approves an extension of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Payroll Support Program (PSP), regardless of whether Delta decides to participate in a second round of government support. The original PSP, which funded most U.S. airline labor costs during the second and third quarters of 2020, expired at the beginning of October, leading to tens of thousands of involuntary furloughs across the industry.

As a result of the tentative agreement, Delta pushed its Nov. 1 furlough deadline back to Nov. 28, to allow additional time for ALPA to work through the ratification process.

“While this agreement is still subject to approval by ALPA, we are confident this can help Delta to be better positioned through the long and choppy COVID-19 pandemic recovery,” Delta SVP-flight operations John Laughter wrote in an Oct. 29 staff memo viewed by Aviation Daily. 

“ALPA has diligently sought creative solutions with Delta to achieve a win/win agreement that preserves pilot jobs while positioning Delta to springboard back to where it was pre-COVID, the top of the airline industry,” ALPA spokesman Chris Higgins said in a statement. “With the inking of this deal, ALPA’s priority will remain focused on making sure our voice is heard on Capitol Hill as we continue to seek a clean extension to the CARES Act and the PSP despite the recent delays.”

The tentative agreement means Delta likely will be able to avoid involuntary furloughs this year. The airline already has ruled out furloughs for flight attendants and ground staff, which management attributes to better-than-expected uptake in early-retirement packages and voluntary leaves of absence. In sharp contrast, Delta’s two main competitors, American Airlines and United Airlines, have furloughed a combined 32,000 employees since Oct. 1.

More than 40,000 Delta workers have agreed to voluntary short- and long-term leaves of absence, while 17,000 workers opted for early-outs, according to the company. Management also has offered staff a variety of workgroup-specific options to further reduce costs, including a program that allows flight attendants to work alternating months and a mandatory 25% hours-reduction program for all ground workers through year-end.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Boston, Ben covers advanced air mobility and is managing editor of Aviation Week Network’s AAM Report.