Airline employment rebounded slightly in July

09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines employees work the ticket counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
09/04/2020 -Atlanta, Georgia - Delta Air Lines employees work the ticket counter in the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Airline employment continued to recover in July, after falling in April and May when travel plummeted due to COVID-19, according to federal data.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported Wednesday that U.S. airlines had 706,824 workers — 597,982 full-time and 108,842 part-time — in mid-July.

That’s up by 7,101 workers from mid-June. But it’s still 46,461 lower than in March.

Airline employment fell in April and May before recovering in June and July. Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics
Airline employment fell in April and May before recovering in June and July. Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Credit: Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Credit: Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

The figures include employees who worked or were paid for any part of the pay period ending in mid-July.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines had 90,000 employees but began cutting its workforce in March by asking them to take voluntary unpaid leaves of one month to one year.

Delta chief financial officer Paul Jacobson said Wednesday more than 45,000 employees volunteered to take temporary unpaid leave.

In the federal count for mid-July, Delta had 56,513 full-time and 5,563 part-time employees, for a total of 62,076. That was up from about 51,000 in May and June.

Along with the temporary leaves, Delta is permanently reducing its workforce by more than 17,000 through buyouts and early retirements, most of which took effect Aug. 1.

Delta last month said it plans to furlough 1,941 pilots in October. But it was watching to see whether the CARES Act with federal rescue funding for airlines will be extended, and it is continuing talks with its pilots union to try to reduce or avoid furloughs.

The airline previously sought more cuts from its flight attendant group through unpaid leaves and other options, saying it was still overstaffed.

Last week, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on CNBC if cuts can’t be mitigated, “the only work group right now that we believe we would have furloughs in would be, unfortunately, our pilots."

Demand for air travel could take time to recover, even with vaccinations, CFO Jacobson said during his presentation at a Cowen investor conference Wednesday. “It’s going to take a while for those vaccinations to really get disseminated out globally,” he said.

He added he believed the process would take six to 12 months.

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