Retired Delta pilots to file appeal over lost pension benefits

A group of thousands of retired Delta Air Lines pilots said it plans to file an appeal with the federal pension insurer over $600 million in pension benefits, a step demonstrating the lingering effects of cuts Delta made during its bankruptcy filing over five years ago.

The Delta Pilot's Pension Preservation Organization said its Washington-based law firm Miller & Chevalier plans to file the administrative appeal Oct. 28.

The appeal will challenge rules used by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. when it calculated benefits for more than 3,500 retired Delta pilots, benefits that the pilots group contends were "artificially reduced" by about $600 million, or about $1,200 per month per pilots.

The PBGC said in a written statement that it stands by its work.

"Congress has put limits on the benefits we can pay, so some retirees see reduced benefits," according to the statement from PBGC's deputy director of communications Jeffrey Speicher. "PBGC calculates those benefits to make sure retirees get every dollar the law allows. Our process has been tested many times in the courts, who agree it is fair and equitable."

During a raft airline bankruptcies and pension terminations, Delta terminated its pilot pension plan in 2006 during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, leading the PBGC to take over the pension plan assets.

The Delta Pilot's Pension Preservation Organization said hundreds of retired Delta pilots are still waiting for the PBGC to complete its final calculations of benefits, particularly for pilots who are divorced and make for more complicated cases. Those pilots have been receiving estimated benefits from the PBGC. The pilots group had been waiting for the final calculations before filing the appeal.

Delta Pilot's Pension Preservation Organization chairman Will Buergey contended in a written statement that the terminated pilot pension plan "had sufficient funds to pay these benefits."

Buergey said the organization has collected information from thousands of retired pilots and has been working for the last five years "to see the pilots get their pensions that they earned over a 30-year career with Delta."