Pilots speak after exiting a Delta Airlines flight at Ronald Reagan National Airport July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.
Michael A. McCoy | Getty Images
Delta Air Lines plans to bring hundreds of its pilots back by the summer as the airline positions itself for a rebound in travel demand.
Delta’s pilots avoided vacation last year after the union agreed to cut pay and not meet flight requirements for around 1,700 junior pilots. Delta will now offer active status to around 400 of them, according to a company note released by CNBC. This includes the flight training required to fly certain aircraft, as the company plans to train and prepare them for the summer of 2022.
Due to the failure of pilots, aircraft outages and reduced flying in the coronavirus pandemic, some pilots are required to train new types of aircraft, which can take months.
The pilots are already receiving a regular salary of less than $ 15 billion in additional government aid, which Congress approved in Covid’s latest aid package late last year.
“When we looked for ways to better position ourselves to support the planned recovery, we saw an opportunity to rebuild additional staff for pilots before summer 2022 by returning 400 affected pilots to active flight status by summer” wrote John Laughter. Senior vice president of flight operations, in a Jan. 21 employee communication. “This is way ahead of the original estimate that we can restore pilots to full flight status and will be possible from March and April due to PSP help and the available training capacity.”
Airline CEOs have warned they expect a rocky start into 2021 as Covid-19 continues to spread and travel restrictions keep many potential customers off planes.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian was optimistic about the rebound after losing more than $ 12 billion a year, the biggest loss ever. Earlier this month, Bastian said he expected the airline to return to profitability this summer as more people are vaccinated.
“We are pleased to have 400 full-time pilot positions now, but it’s important to remember that the road to recovery ahead will be long and troubled,” Laughing said in the memo to pilots last week. “However, we are cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccines roll out around the world and look forward to returning all affected pilots to full flight status as their recovery progresses.”
The Air Line Pilots Association, the union that represents the airline’s 12,000 or so pilots, said it was “encouraged” by Delta’s decision.
“As career-making stakeholders, pilots want to see Delta back to where it was before the virus exploded, at the forefront of the industry,” the union said in a statement.