Delta Air Lines pilots published an open letter to customers Thursday in a direct appeal to those who may be frustrated by flight delays and cancellations ahead of the summer travel season.
"We have been working on our days off, flying a record amount of overtime to help you get to your destination," the letter states. "At the current rate, by this fall, our pilots will have flown more overtime in 2022 than in the entirety of 2018 and 2019 combined, our busiest years to date.
Delta recently announced it was canceling some 100 daily departures from destinations in the U.S. and Latin America, affecting travel from July 1 to August 7. Other airlines have taken similar measures amid ongoing staffing shortages and surging demand.
“If you’ve flown on a plane lately, planes are very full and plane tickets are very expensive,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said Wednesday.
Airline CEOs will meet virtually with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg late Thursday to discuss their operations in the wake of the delays and cancellations, people familiar with the matter told CNBC Thursday.
The pilots' spat with Delta comes as the pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), seeks to negotiate a new contract with the Atlanta-based carrier. The pilots said they plan to picket Delta's upcoming shareholder meeting.
“It gives us no pleasure to tell management, ‘We told you so,’” Delta Capt. Jason Ambrosi, an ALPA leader, said in a release accompanying Thursday's letter. “Pilots are mission-oriented and want to deliver industry-leading operational performance. We’ve picked up record amounts of overtime to help Delta during the recovery.”
In a statement, Delta said: “All of our people, including our pilots, are working hard to restore our airline and deliver for our customers as we emerge from the pandemic. We are grateful for and proud of their efforts.
It continued: "We continuously evaluate our staffing models and plan ahead so that we can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise, and the resilience of the Delta people is unmatched in that regard. Pilot schedules remain in line with all requirements set by the FAA as well as those outlined in our pilot contract.”
Kit Darby, president at KitDarby.com Aviation Consulting, LLC, recently told NBC News that airlines are struggling with booming demand coming out of the pandemic that has coincided with a wave of federally mandated pilot retirements.
"These are excellent jobs, with a career value of $11 million," Darby said. "It's hard to believe we have a shortage for an $11 million career, but due to short sightedness ... any solution is going to be three, four, five years away."