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 will take 1,941 pilots on leave in October unless a cost-cutting agreement can be reached with the workers' union, the airline said on Monday.
U.S. airlines that have accepted $ 25 billion in government aid will not be allowed to cut jobs until September 30th.
"We have been in this pandemic for six months and only 25% of our revenue has been recovered," said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president of flight operations, in a memo to pilots watched by CNBC. Laughter said the airline wasn't expecting a quick turnaround.
That summer, Delta warned 2,558 of its pilots about possible vacations. The number has been cut by more than 1,800 pilots who took early retirement packages, but laughter warned that avoiding the vacation days altogether isn't enough.
"With around 11,200 active pilots still on the roster after departures on September 1st [voluntary early retirement], we are simply overstaffed and face an incredibly difficult decision," he wrote. Laughter said letters would be sent this week to pilots hired on or after July 17, 2017.
Delta said last month that remaining pilots could avoid vacation days altogether with a 15% cut in the minimum wage.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents Delta's pilots, asked the company to find a solution. It was previously proposed to offer the pilots voluntary partial compensation, but Delta and the union have not yet reached an agreement.
"While we should be talking about real job-saving solutions, Delta's youngest pilots face unnecessary career uncertainty when ALPA has offered management countless voluntary options to prevent vacation," said union spokesman and Delta first mate Chris Riggins in a statement . "It is not too late for management to wrap up the negotiating table discussions and reduce the need for vacation.
Laughter said the company will need approximately 9,450 pilots for the summer of 2021, "which we expect to peak in flight over the next 12 to 18 months."
According to Delta, COO Gil West plans to retire at the end of September after serving twelve years with the Atlanta-based airline. West began shortly before Delta merged with Northwest in 2008 and was named Delta’s COO in 2014.
West also ran several ancillary businesses at Delta, including the aircraft maintenance unit, which the airline has expanded in recent years, Delta said in a press release on Monday.