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Delta Air Lines warns over 2,500 pilots of possible vacations

Delta Air Lines is preparing to inform more than 2,500 pilots about possible vacation days. In addition, the airline has reached an agreement with its pilot union on early retirement options as the airline will try to reduce its size given the lower demand for travel and greater losses.

Delta A330 airplane
Delta is preparing to send messages to over 2,500 pilots on vacation. Photo: Getty Images

Prepare for vacation

CNBC reports that Delta is preparing to inform 2,558 pilots about possible vacation days. At the same time, Delta reached agreement on early retirement options with its pilot union. The early retirement option is a voluntary approach that helps Delta, alongside unpaid leave, to reduce its workforce when there is a need for it.

Delta confirmed the communications to Simple Flying and discussed early retirement:

“Delta and ALPA continue to discuss useful options for reducing or preventing vacation times. In order to best prepare our pilots in the event of a vacation, Delta sends the necessary notifications to approximately 2,500 pilots to inform them of a possible vacation. Delta and the Air Line Pilots Association have reached agreement on a pilot-specific early retirement program. As we work to deal with the impact of the pandemic and adapt staffing to anticipated flight demand, this voluntary exit plan, along with other similar programs, is a significant next step for all Delta employees. “

Delta aircraft
The move comes as Delta continues to work to stabilize its business and reduce cash production. Photo: Getty Images

Delta hoped to minimize the vacation days

Earlier this month, Delta worked with its unions to avoid vacationing for over 2,300 pilots. While the number has risen slightly since then, the airline is still trying the best to avoid vacation. The airline’s policy has always been to reduce the involuntary part of job cuts or vacation days. This has prompted airlines to offer some incredibly attractive early retirement packages.

Delta getty
It will take some time before demand returns to pre-crisis levels. Photo: Getty Images

Why vacation?

In a webcast viewed by Simple Flying, American chief Doug Parker found that vacation days are part of the “old log book”. Vacation days are particularly attractive for airlines for pilots. Letting go of pilots is difficult because they require a lot of training and are a major investment for airlines. The airline does not have to formally let go of the pilots, but can essentially keep enough pilots to meet passenger demand. In the meantime, an airline’s payroll remains low and part of a cost reduction.

Delta aircraft getty
Delta has discontinued some types of aircraft and reduced flying at least for the next few years, leaving a number of pilot surpluses. Photo: Getty Images

Delta’s pilots are currently protected from vacation and layoffs until October 1, when support for federal payroll has run out. After that, two things work against pilots. Not only is there no government support, winter is approaching.

Aside from the busy holiday season, winter is one of the worst for airlines with low travel requirements. This is especially true now that many vacation destinations are no longer attractive – especially in Europe and the north of the USA. Delta has already indicated that it will be much smaller in the fall. The MD series has already been discontinued and the airline is planning the last 777 flights in the fall. This alone reduces Delta’s fleet by more than 60 aircraft compared to before the crisis.

Delta 777
The 777 are on the way out. Photo: Getty Images

Even among the aircraft that Delta will fly until summer 2021, the airline will not need all of the capacity. Some will no doubt remain parked, and with new aircraft deliveries postponed and four A350 acquisitions canceled, some of the Delta pilots may not be able to fly other aircraft or retrain for a few months.

Ultimately, there is still time to change the situation. Demand is returning, but far from the level that airlines need to make profits. The airline may also have to cut more flights as the crisis continues. Until we overcome the current crisis, it will be a difficult road for executives and employees, as carriers cut daily money consumption and try to find a successful way forward.

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