Delta has roughly 12,000 pilots. It had about 14,000 pilots before more than 1,800 took early retirement packages last year.
Jason Ambrosi, the Delta pilots union’s new chairman, called the company’s recent staffing decisions “positive signs” in a memo to pilots.
While the recall process starts this month, it will take time to train pilots on the specific aircraft type they’ll be flying in the airline’s flight schedule. Delta has restructured its fleet by retiring hundreds of older planes.
Delta said bringing all pilots back to active status by this fall will help it prepare for rebounding customer demand into 2022 and 2023.
The 1,700 pilots on inactive status had been on reduced pay as part of a labor deal to avoid furloughs, before passage of a second federal stimulus bill last year with funding for airlines to keep workers on their payroll. Delta then restored those pilots to full pay from December through March, even though they were on inactive status.
CEO Ed Bastian has said he hopes Delta will move back toward profitability in the second half of this year. But it’s expected to take years for air travel, including international and business trips, to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.