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Delta restoring hundreds of pilots to full-time status by summer

Delta restoring hundreds of pilots to full-time status by summer
© Greg Nash

Delta Air Lines is planning to bring back 400 pilots to full-time flying status by the summer, a company spokesman confirmed.

Reuters initially reported the move, citing a Delta memo it had obtained. The news service reports that the airline cited federal payroll support in part for its decision.

"It is not a recall since there were no furloughs at Delta," the Delta spokesman told The Hill. "Pilots on inactive status retain employment and pay."

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Delta's pilots in November voted in favor of pay cuts last November to avoid furloughs.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccinations roll out across the world, and we look forward to restoring all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues,” the airline's senior vice president of flight operations, John Laughter, told Reuters.

Despite the optimism, Laughter acknowledged that customer demand is unlikely to have fully rebounded by the time the pilots are restored to full-time status. He also estimated the company would burn through between $10 million and $15 million a day.

“We are encouraged that Delta has begun recalling pilots that the pandemic has sidelined,” a representative for the Delta pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association, told the news service.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian had similarly expressed optimism for the airline industry earlier in January, saying he expected the company to reach a positive cash flow by the spring.

"The first will look a lot like 2020, with travel demand deeply depressed and our focus on ensuring the health and safety of our people and customers,” said Bastian in a company memo obtained by The Hill. “We continue to expect that we will achieve positive cash flow by the spring.”

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Like much of the pandemic-ravaged airline industry, Delta was hard-hit. Its third quarter revenue dropped to $3.1 billion in the third quarter of 2020, a 76 percent drop from the same period one year earlier.

Delta had no comment on future schedules of capacity, the company spokesperson said on Monday.

--Updated at 1:09 p.m.