Delta to restore employees to full pay, hours

Delta Air Lines plans to restore full pay and hours to the employees who had schedules and compensation cut nine months ago due to a drop in business from the coronavirus.

The airline cut ground workers and headquarters employees, who make up most of its workforce, to three- or four-day work weeks in April and cut salaries by 25% to trim payroll expenses. Air travel had plunged 85%, and the company was losing about $50 million a day.

Delta cut its headcount since then from more than 90,000 to 75,000 employees through buyouts and early retirements, and tens of thousands of employees have also taken voluntary unpaid leave.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a memo Wednesday the reduction in hours helped the company avoid involuntary furloughs for U.S. employees. “I know this has not been easy for you,” he told employees.

Delta has been bringing some employees back to full schedules, and it needs reservations, maintenance and many airport customer service employees back full-time, Bastian said in the memo.

“Based on this progress, we plan to return all of our merit and hourly ground employees to full schedules effective Jan. 1, 2021,” he wrote.

Some air travel has returned, but passenger volumes remain more than 60% below 2019 levels on many days, according to Transportation Security Administration figures.

Last month, the airline’s pilots agreed to pay cuts of up to 5% to avoid furloughs. In addition to buyouts and early retirements, some flight attendants at Delta have shifted to reduced schedules or other work such as catering.

Although the company will no longer impose pay cuts on ground workers and headquarters employees, Bastian said the company still needs employees to volunteer for unpaid leaves for the foreseeable future, and it will have details soon for employees to take leave in 2021.

Separately, he said Delta has put nearly 700 passengers on its no-fly list for refusing to comply with policies requiring masks on planes.