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Delta plans to furlough more than 1,900 pilots in October

Delta says it’s preparing to furlough 1,941 pilots in October but it could reduce or avoid furloughs if it can reach cost-cutting agreements with the union.
Georgia, Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Delta Airlines, tarmac and aircraft service
Delta Airlines planes at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.Jeff Greenberg / Universal Images / Getty Images file

Delta Air Lines will furlough 1,941 of its pilots in October unless it can reach a cost-cutting agreement with the employees’ labor union, the airline said Monday.

U.S. airlines that accepted $25 billion in federal aid are prohibited from cutting jobs through Sept. 30.

“We are six months into this pandemic and only 25 percent of our revenues have been recovered,” said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations in a memo to pilots, which was seen by CNBC. Laughter said the airline doesn’t expect a quick turnaround in demand.

This summer, Delta warned 2,558 of its pilots about potential furloughs. The number was lowered by more than 1,800 pilots who took early retirement packages, but Laughter warned it is not enough to avoid the furloughs altogether.

“With approximately 11,200 active pilots still on the roster following the September 1 [voluntary early retirement] departures, we are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision,” he wrote. Laughter said letters would be going out this week to pilots hired on or after July 17, 2017.

Delta last month said remaining pilots could avoid furloughs altogether with a 15 percent cut to minimum pay.

The Air Line Pilots Association, Delta’s pilots’ labor union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Laughter said the company will need about 9,450 pilots for summer 2021, “which we expect will be the peak flying for the next 12-18 months.”

Separately, Delta said its COO Gil West plans to retire at the end of September after 12 years at the Atlanta-based airline. West started shortly before Delta’s 2008 merger with Northwest and was named Delta’s COO in 2014.

West also led several ancillary businesses at Delta, including its aircraft maintenance unit, which the airline has expanded in recent years, Delta said in a news release on Monday.