Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian has confirmed in a publicly released internal memo that the airline will not carry out any involuntary furloughs on flight attendants or frontline ground staff when CARES Act payroll support runs out at the end of September. While both of those workgroups aren’t unionized, pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) face nearly 2,000 involuntary furloughs on October 1.
“Avoiding involuntary furloughs in this unprecedented environment is entirely due to the innovation, hard work and shared sacrifice of our people,” Bastian said in the memo.
“Our teams have done an extraordinary job identifying opportunities to spread work around and shift people into new roles that are essential to our business,” he continued. Delta flight attendants have signed up to “innovative” job-saving schemes including a ‘fly share’ program and even the option to work in Delta’s catering business.
Groundworkers have had paid working hours slashed by a quarter – something that Bastian says “played a significant role” in reducing the need for involuntary furloughs. The pay cut has been extended at least through to the end of the year.
More than 40,000 employees have volunteered to take unpaid leaves of absence and 17,000 employees opted to leave the company earlier than they may have originally planned through voluntary packages. The average age of leavers was 25-years according to the Atlanta-based airline.
“We had an enormous response to the enhanced early retirement and departure packages that were offered this summer, with 20 per cent of our people choosing voluntary exits. While it is difficult to see so many of our colleagues leave, every one of those departures helped save Delta jobs,” Bastian said in the memo.
“Unfortunately, we still expect an overage of pilots as of Oct. 1. There still is time to mitigate this potential furlough and discussions are ongoing with the pilots’ union as we continue to look for ways to cost-effectively reduce or eliminate this number,” the memo continued.
Around 1,941 pilots are currently at risk of involuntary furlough, with ALPA has accused Delta of using the threat of furlough as an excuse to force through involuntary cost-cutting measures. More than 2,000 pilots have already left the airline through a variety of voluntary packages to reduce the need for furloughs.
“ALPA has drafted numerous, mutually beneficial proposals that would provide the airline with voluntary cost-saving measures like those agreed to at virtually every other U.S. carrier,” explained Chris Riggins, communications chairman of ALPA’s Delta master executive council and First Officer.
Despite avoiding involuntary furloughs in some workgroups, Bastian painted a grim picture of the near future. Passenger volumes remain stuck at a stubborn 30 per cent of pre-COVID levels while the airline continues to burn through $750 million a month.
“Even when a vaccine is developed and distributed, it will take time for business travel to come back, because of the damage that’s been done to the global economy,” he cautioned.
Bastian will forego his salary for the rest of the year while other senior executives will have their pay cut by 50 per cent through to the end of 2020.
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