Delta and pilots union reach accord that would avoid coronavirus furloughs

Oct 30, 2020

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Delta Air Lines and its pilots union have reached a deal that would allow the carrier to avoid any furloughs for over a year even as it weathers the coronavirus pandemic.

The tentative agreement postpones any pilot furloughs to at least Jan. 1, 2022 from Nov. 1 while at the same time giving Delta the flexibility to reduce crew expenses during the crisis, the Delta chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said late on Thursday.

The Atlanta-based carrier stood apart from peers American Airlines and United Airlines by avoiding furloughs on Oct. 1. Protections under the federal coronavirus relief package, or CARES Act, expired the day before. However, barring an agreement with ALPA, Delta was set to let go of at least 1,700 pilots this Sunday, Nov. 1.

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U.S. airlines and their labor unions continue to push for a six-month extension of federal payroll support. That relief would allow carriers to keep staff on their their payrolls through the historically weaker winter travel period and allow them to bounce back faster next summer.

In addition, the support would act as a way of keeping airline staff employed and avoid further expanding unemployment rolls.

“ALPA’s priority will remain focused on making sure our voice is heard on Capitol Hill as we continue to seek a clean extension to the CARES Act and the [payroll support program] despite the recent delays that have been encountered,” said Delta pilot and union spokesperson Chris Riggins in a statement.

Related: More than 30,000 furloughs begin as ‘terrible Thursday’ arrives for airlines

If the payroll program is extended after the Nov. 3 election, the new deal between Delta and ALPA would be put on hold for the duration of the extension. American and United have promised to recall all of their furloughed staff as well.

In addition to furlough protection, Delta pilots would also receive a guaranteed seat on flights when they are commuting to work. For example, a crewmember who lives in Washington, D.C., but flies from Atlanta would get a confirmed seat when they fly from Washington to Atlanta to go to work.

Delta has delayed pilot furloughs until Nov. 28 in order to give crews time for a necessary ratification vote on the agreement, operations chief John Laughter told staff in a memo on Oct. 29 shared with TPG.

“We are confident this can help Delta to be better positioned through the long and choppy COVID-19 pandemic recovery,” he said of the accord.

Related: Delta works towards eleventh-hour deal to avoid pilot furloughs even as outlook remains ‘grim’

Featured image by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images.




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