“We don’t have pilots in the right seats in the right airplanes at the right time,” said Chris Riggins, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association union at Delta.
Meanwhile, the Delta pilot training center’s set number of flight simulators limited its capacity. The pandemic exacerbated the problem.
Delta pilots are being asked to get tested for COVID-19 once a week. “We’re seeing the numbers [of cases] increase, along with everyone else,” Riggins said.
Delta typically depends on offering overtime pay to increase pilot staffing when needed, but it can be more difficult to get enough last-minute volunteers on holidays.
Delta also had to cancel over 600 flights over Thanksgiving amid crew staffing issues, and it had hoped to avoid similar problems over Christmas.
Riggins said traffic is expected to be busy Jan. 5 with return trips from the holidays, but he didn’t think there would be the same pilot staffing problems.