Delta pushes pilot furloughs back a month, releases other good news for employees

ATLANTA — Delta Air Lines says it will delay the start of furloughs for its pilots by a month.

Last month, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an internal memo that the company would furlough nearly 2,000 pilots on Oct. 1 following a big decline in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new communication, Bastian said that through negotiations, Delta and the pilots' union were able to come to an agreement that reduced the amount of pilots being furloughed by 220. Also part of the agreement was that furloughs won’t start until Nov. 1.

“We had an enormous response to the enhanced early retirement and departure packages that were offered this summer, with 20 percent of our people choosing voluntary exits. While it is difficult to see so many of our colleagues leave, every one of those departures helped save Delta jobs,” Bastian said in his latest memo. “We stand with our industry colleagues in support of an extension of the CARES Act, which would protect airline industry jobs, including the Delta pilots facing furloughs. While I’m hopeful that an agreement on an extension can be reached, the deal on a broader stimulus plan – in which the extension would be included - looks uncertain. We will continue to work with members of Congress and the Administration on a solution.”

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Also in the memo, Bastian said Delta will avoid all involuntary furloughs for ground and flight attendant employees.

“Avoiding involuntary furloughs in this unprecedented environment is entirely due to the innovation, hard work and shared sacrifice of our people,” the memo said.

Delta started the year with about 90,000 employees but has cut its payroll by about 19,000 through early retirements and buyouts. It has also asked employees to take voluntary unpaid leave, with more than 40,000 taking leave ranging from a month to a year.

Bastian said, "It’s important to remember that we are still in a grim economic situation.

“Even when a vaccine is developed and distributed, it will take time for business travel to come back, because of the damage that’s been done to the global economy,” he wrote. “It’s clear the recovery will still be long and choppy.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.