Delta Air Lines plans to furlough 1,941 pilots effective October 1 in the latest manifestation of the Covid-19 pandemic’s destructive influence on the airline industry. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Delta’s Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) Master Executive Council characterized the action as a maneuver by management to force acceptance of involuntary concessions. Layoff protections for workers at airlines that accepted part of a $25 billion aid package under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expire at the end of September, prompting Delta’s decision to address what it called an overstaffing situation.
In April Delta accepted $5.4 billion in aid from the federal government. In July it issued a warning to more than 2,500 of its some 14,000 pilots of potential furloughs and offered roughly 7,900 voluntary retirements.
“ALPA has drafted numerous, mutually beneficial proposals that would provide the airline with voluntary cost savings measures like those agreed to at virtually every other U.S. carrier,” said the union in a statement. “In fact, on September 1, more than 1,500 pilots will voluntarily leave their career as a Delta Air Lines pilot, with hundreds more following that, so that their colleagues have a chance to continue to pursue their profession.
“This management team has repeatedly struggled to maintain proper staffing in healthy situations. This drastic reduction of nearly 4,000 in pilots will unquestionably undermine our airline’s ability to successfully and efficiently increase flying and take advantage of competitive opportunities as the industry recovers.”
According to ALPA, Delta’s pilot workforce remains the only “major” employee group to have received job loss notices. It added that it offered “countless” voluntary options to management to prevent furloughs from happening.
“It’s not too late for management to complete discussions at the bargaining table and help mitigate the need to furlough,” said the union. “It’s not too late for them to take a constructive rather than a destructive approach in dealing with this unprecedented situation.”
Delta last month proposed lowering guaranteed minimum pay for first officers by 15 percent in return for a promise not to institute furloughs for a year but ALPA rejected the offer, countering that the airline should first offer leaves of absence with partial pay. Since then negotiations have stalled.