Delta lays off some corporate staff in effort to cut costs

Company won’t say how many employees are being cut
Delta headquarters in Atlanta. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Delta headquarters in Atlanta. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is laying off some of its corporate staff in an effort to cut costs.

The company issued a statement Wednesday evening saying it had “heavily invested in our business to manage the rapid return of demand” over the past few years in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta’s payroll had reached nearly 100,000 employees, according to CEO Ed Bastian in recent comments.

“While we’re not yet back to full capacity, now is the time to make adjustments to programs, budgets and organizational structures across Delta to meet our stated goals,” the company said in its statement, adding that “one part of this effort includes adjustments to corporate staffing in support of these changes.”

The company would not say how many jobs it is cutting. It has nearly 35,000 employees in Georgia, including thousands at its headquarters next to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Delta said “these decisions are never made lightly,” according to the statement.

The cuts affect corporate management employees. The company said it is not laying off any of its frontline workers, such as flight attendants, pilots, customer service workers, mechanics or baggage handlers.

Delta is making the cuts after reporting last month a $1.1 billion profit for the third quarter of the year. That was up from a $695 million profit a year earlier.

However, that profit was still lower than expected. Delta acknowledged in an investor update in September that it has had higher-than-expected fuel costs and maintenance expense, which drove the company to cut its profit forecast for the quarter. Over the summer, there were 30% more Delta aircraft out of service than normal levels, prompting the company to invest more in maintenance to improve reliability.

“Not just fuel costs are up,” Bastian said when announcing the company’s financial results. “Labor rates are increasing and other inflationary pressures — supply chain and maintenance costs are up.”

Other airlines have voiced concerns about softer demand. Delta has said it has seen an increase in customers paying more for premium seats and amenities. The company’s overall flight capacity is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels, but it had 10% more employees than it did before slashing its payroll during the pandemic.

Bastian signaled last month that the growth will slow.

“We’re to the point of stability,” he said. “Next year we’re going to be in a more normalized level of growth.”

The layoffs come after Delta during the COVID-19 pandemic worked to avoid involuntary departures by instead cutting hours and pay and encouraging employees to take buyouts, early retirements and voluntary unpaid leaves of absence.