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Delta CEO: Airline has 'real shot' of avoiding layoffs because 20 percent of workforce voluntarily retired

Delta CEO: Airline has 'real shot' of avoiding layoffs because 20 percent of workforce voluntarily retired
© Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on Thursday that the company has a "real shot" of avoiding layoffs because 20 percent of the workforce voluntarily agreed to retire amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 17,000 employees agreed to retire, Bastian told Fox Business when asked what he’s doing to avoid layoffs. Delta employed nearly 90,000 people at the beginning of 2020. 

“One of the things we said at the beginning of the pandemic was that if we could avoid layoffs, and certainly minimize layoffs, that would be a real testament to the strength of the company and the culture and our people. And I think we've got a real shot at doing just that," he said. "Absolutely only a minimum level of furloughs. And I think we've got a shot at having no furloughs once we get to that Oct. 1 date."

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Airlines are prohibited from firing or laying off any employees until Oct. 1 under the terms of the financial aid the industry received from the federal government.

Bastian also said the company has had thousands of employees take monthly, unpaid leaves of absence.

“In the current month, we have over 40,000 of our people on [leave] and we have thousands more that will continue over the course of the fall. So, the Delta people are stepping up and making a great sacrifice and commitment as we try to downsize the airline in the face of the pandemic,” he said.

Other airlines have warned employees of layoffs once the Oct. 1 deadline passes.

American Airlines told employees on Wednesday that it could slash up to 25,000 jobs in the fall. Southwest Airlines told employees on Monday that passenger numbers need to triple by the end of the year to avoid layoffs and that as many as 36,000 employees more than one-third of its workforce could face furloughs on Oct. 1.