CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — A protest is expected at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday as the holiday weekend looms.
A Delta Airlines pilot with more than 20 years experience with the airline spoke exclusively with Channel 2 about what’s leading Delta and other airlines to delay or cancel so many flights.
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“Obviously there is an airline pilot shortage across the board for most domestic airlines,” the pilot told Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon.
“They’re being caused by staffing issues. They go far beyond pilots just getting sick,” the pilot said. “We’re not the only ones canceling these flights, but what we do feel and I as a pilot and a lot of my colleagues feel is that Delta has kind of backed themselves into this position.”
The pilot, who wants to remain anonymous, told Channel 2 he believes Delta has done a better job recently of hiring more pilots. According to him, he says more than 200 are hired per month. But he also says that so far, this is not enough to meet the increased demand from travelers.
“It feels bad when we show up to an airplane and here’s 180 customers on our airplane and we have to cancel because we can’t find but one pilot,” he said. “I’ve had to do that a couple of times and tell them how sorry I was for it. But you know it only goes so far.”
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In a statement to Channel 2 Action News, Delta said the following:
“Delta teams continue to safely manage through compounding factors affecting our operation, including higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some of our work groups. Canceling a flight is always our last resort, and we sincerely apologize to our customers.”
The Delta pilot told Channel 2 that many overworked airline pilots are now refusing overtime, leading to more cancellations.
“What we’re kind of feeling on the line flying is we’re tired. We’re away from our families and we’re still towing the load for Delta, trying to get the flights there,” he said.
He’s among several Delta pilots planning an informational picket at the airport on Thursday morning to demand better pay and more time off as contract negotiations with the airline drag on.
Delta responded, saying:
“Our goal remains to continue providing Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on pay, retirement, work rules, and profit sharing.”
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The airline also predicts more trouble ahead over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. That is why Delta is now offering waivers this week to passengers who want to change their flights, to avoid potential cancellations.
“Look back at last Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter, most recently Memorial Day; the operation was a mess,” he said. “We had stranded passengers everywhere. And until we make some changes in the right direction, we’re going to keep repeating this history.”
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