Delta to hire 1,000 pilots as pandemic recovery continues

11/23/2020 �  Atlanta, Georgia �Delta Air Lines pilots talk amongst themselves as they walk through the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
11/23/2020 � Atlanta, Georgia �Delta Air Lines pilots talk amongst themselves as they walk through the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta , Monday, November 23, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

Delta Air Lines plans to hire 1,000 pilots by next summer as it continues to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Atlanta-based Delta cut more than 1,800 pilots from its payroll through early retirement packages and put about 1,700 junior pilots on inactive status. The cutbacks contributed to staffing issues that led Delta to cancel hundreds of flights around Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. The airline had more staffing challenges over Easter this year.

Delta now has about 12,000 pilots. Operations chief John Laughter told pilots in a memo that the plan for hiring is a “positive indicator” as the airline’s recovery accelerates. Domestic leisure travel has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels this month, according to the airline.

Earlier this year, Delta said it planned to have all of the pilots placed on inactive status back at work by fall. And the company has restarted its training of pilots.

Delta said its newly hired pilots will have a chance to start out on larger planes with higher pay.

Meanwhile, American Airlines is struggling with staffing issues that are contributing to the cancellation of hundreds of July flights, about 1% of its daily schedule.

Laughter’s memo said that Delta must “foster a strong pipeline of pilot candidates in order to support our future demand and manage pilot attrition.”

The airline is working with schools to develop pilot career paths, and the company is also redesigning its hiring “to create more inclusive pathways to a pilot career while maintaining the highest standards from our applicants,” Laughter said.

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