Delta Air Lines is bringing 400 pilots back to active status by summer in anticipation of a recovery in travel as the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed.
After drastic cuts in flights, Atlanta-based Delta last year put about 1,700 pilots on inactive status on reduced pay. After the passage of another federal stimulus bill with funding for airlines to keep workers on their payrolls, Delta restored full pay to those pilots from December through March but didn’t bring them back to work.
In a memo to pilots reviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Delta Senior Vice President John Laughter warned that the recovery will be “long and choppy” and that the first quarter will be similar to the fourth quarter, when Delta was burning through $10 million to $15 million in cash a day due to depressed demand for travel.
“However, we’re cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccinations roll out across the world, and we look forward to restoring all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues,” Laughter wrote.
It’s unclear when all of the 1,700 inactive pilots will be brought back to work, beyond the 400 who are returning to active status by this summer.
The latest round of federal stimulus funding includes nearly $2.9 billion in grants and loans to Delta.
Delta is bringing back some of its pilots after it had to cancel hundreds of flights around Thanksgiving and Christmas last year due to staffing issues, even though TSA figures show the volume of travelers at airports is still down more than 60% on many days.
After the airline retired hundreds of jets, many pilots were reassigned to different aircraft and hadn’t yet been retrained. COVID-19 cases and quarantine requirements further diminished the pool of pilots available to fly.
About the Author
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com