Delta says airline still overstaffed, trying to avoid layoffs

CEO weighs cutting contractors; seeks unpaid leaves

Delta Air Lines said it is still overstaffed even though 17,000 employees are taking buyouts and early retirements.

But the Atlanta-based airline is “committed to exhausting every option possible and harnessing our creativity before we consider involuntary separations,” CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo Thursday.

Delta is looking at “insourcing” work previously done by contractors, temporarily shifting employees between divisions and sharing work by continuing reduced work hours. Delta in March cut many workers’ hours and pay by 25% and is continuing that through Sept. 30 amid a plunge in air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to people taking packages to leave the company, about 45,000 of the company’s 90,000 employees have taken voluntary unpaid leaves ranging from one month to one year. Of those, as many as 35,000 are still on leave, according to Bastian. There’s some overlap between the number of employees currently on temporary leave and those opting to leave permanently.

Bastian asked more employees to consider signing up for unpaid leaves.

“We will continue to need more volunteers to take leaves for the upcoming fall months,” he wrote in the memo. “These monthly leaves will continue to be critical to reducing the risk of involuntary furloughs.” The company is also working with its pilots union to avoid furloughs, he added.

Our goal is to minimize, and if possible, avoid involuntary furloughs.

- Delta CEO Ed Bastian

Delta and other airlines agreed to no involuntary furloughs of employees until after Sept. 30 as a condition of accepting billions of dollars in federal relief funding through the CARES Act.

“I remain hopeful that by working together and invoking Delta’s legendary spirit of innovation, we can minimize, or even avoid, involuntary furloughs this fall,” Bastian told employees.