Delta pilots vote on measure to cut furloughs, further talks possible

A Delta Air Lines pilot wears a mask while traveling through the domestic terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Friday, September 4, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
A Delta Air Lines pilot wears a mask while traveling through 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

Nearly 2,000 jobs at stake ahead of Sunday deadline

Delta Air Lines pilots are voting on a measure that could reduce furloughs that management has said are imminent unless the two sides can agree on other cost cuts.

The agreement the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta has put up for a vote by its members would allow pilots to volunteer to fly reduced hours, mitigating about 200 of 1,941 furloughs Delta has planned for Nov. 1. The furloughs that have been planned to take effect Sunday include 493 Delta pilots based in Atlanta.

Airlines have been looking for ways to slash costs amid a more than 60% reduction in passenger traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilots will be voting on the furlough reduction measure through Oct. 31. Delta said there is no further extension to the deadline for pilot furloughs.

However, the pilots union leadership is also meeting this week and expects an update on additional talks with Delta management. The union said any agreement to prevent all furloughs would be separate from the voluntary hours reduction up for a vote now, and it’s too soon to tell if such a broader agreement would also be put up for a vote by members.

Delta pilots union chairman Ryan Schnitzler wrote in a memo to pilots Monday that “what transpires in the next seven days will impact not just the new generation of Delta pilots but also Delta itself for many years to come.”

Delta management has cut pay for tens of thousands of non-union employees and proposed measures for pilots that would also result in broad pay cuts. The pilots union has countered by offering voluntary measures to cut costs. While pilots at Delta are unionized, Delta’s flight attendants, baggage handlers, airport customer service agents, reservations agents, mechanics and administrative employees at its headquarters are not.

Last month, Atlanta-based Delta said it would be able to avoid furloughs for flight attendants and ground workers in the U.S. because of buyouts, early retirements and other cost cuts.

While pay cuts would affect pilots across the spectrum, including the most senior pilots, furloughs would affect the most junior pilots at the bottom of the seniority list.

The pilots union has also contended that the airline’s contract regional operation, Delta Connection, is flying more 76-seat regional jets than permitted under the Delta pilots' labor contract, and issued a “cease and desist" demand earlier this month. It said the limit is “intended to safeguard Delta pilots" in the face of looming furloughs.

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