Delta plans to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots in October

Delta plans to furlough nearly 2,000 pilots in October
© Greg Nash

Delta plans to furlough almost 2,000 pilots in October after the travel industry took a significant hit in the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a memo obtained by The Hill Monday.

Delta’s head of flight operations John Laughter said in a memo sent Monday that the airline is planning to furlough 1,941 pilots after determining it was “overstaffed” for the future. 

The airline determined it will need about 9,450 active pilots for the summer of 2021, which it estimates to be the next “peak flying” period in the next 12 to 18 months. Currently, Delta employs about 11,200 active pilots, according to the memo. 


“We are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision,” he wrote, adding that letters will be sent to pilots hired on or after July 17, 2017 “later this week.” 

Delta originally had expected to cut more than 2,500 pilots but its Voluntary Early Out Program had a “higher than originally estimated” participation. 

The airline had participated in the federal government’s aid program which distributed $25 billion to companies that agreed to protect jobs through September. Airline officials and unions have called for the financial assistance to continue, but talks in Congress have stalled.

“We are six months into this pandemic and only 25% of our revenues have been recovered,” Laughter said in the memo. “Unfortunately, we see few catalysts over the next six months to meaningful change this trajectory.”

Laughter said if a deal is reached with lawmakers the company can decrease or avoid the furloughs, noting it’s not looking likely.

“To those who will be furloughed, I recognize this will have a profound effect on you and your families and we will do all we can to stay connected with you,” he wrote. “Though we expect a multi-year recovery, we will work diligently to bring you back to Delta as soon as we can, if demand recovers better than we are anticipating.”

Delta’s Chief Operating Officer Gil West also announced his retirement on Monday 

Other airlines, including U.S. Airlines and American Airlines, have said there could be mass layoffs in October once the federal agreement expires.