Delta to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots by October, internal memo says

ATLANTA — In an internal memo released on Monday, Delta Air Lines announced it plans to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots in October following a big decline in travel over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta has been asking employees to take early retirements and buyouts in hopes of avoiding any furloughs. It has also asked employees to take unpaid leave and reduced pay for ground workers and headquarters employees.

“We are six months into this pandemic and only 25% of our revenues have been recovered. Unfortunately, we see few catalysts over the next six months to meaningful change this trajectory,” according to a memo from John Laughter, Delta senior vice president of flight operations.

Laughter said there’s no choice but to reduce the airline’s staff.

“We are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision,” Laughter said. “The voluntary measures currently on the table just don’t move the needle enough. It’s with this reality that we unfortunately will move forward to furlough 1,941 pilots in October.”

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The memo stated the company will continue to watch any possible relief efforts made by lawmakers that may prevent the airline from having to furlough workers.

“We’re also watching whether the CARES Act is extended. While it’s possible, it is far from certain and we must continue to take the necessary steps to manage the business. It’s vitally important for Delta’s recovery that we reduce our size considering the prolonged and uncertain road ahead,” the memo read.

Laughter said he realizes what will happen with the pilots who get furloughed and the strain it will be on their families.

“We will do all we can to stay connected with you. Though we expect a multi-year recovery, we will work diligently to bring you back to Delta as soon as we can, if demand recovers better than we are anticipating,” the memo read. “Delta pilots have shown true professionalism, a focus on safely flying our customers and have demonstrated the Delta Difference throughout this difficult time. I cannot thank you enough.”