Airlines

Delta pilots approve cost-cutting measures to avoid furloughs until 2022

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Key Points
  • Delta pilots voted for a cost-cutting deal that would avoid more than 1,700 furloughs.
  • The deal would cut pilots hours 5% and slash minimum pay for pilots who were on the furlough list.
A pilot talks on a mobile device near a Delta Air Lines gate at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines pilots voted in favor of pay cuts that would avoid furloughs until 2022 as the industry reels from the coronavirus pandemic, their labor union said Wednesday.

The deal allows the company to lower pilots' guaranteed hours by as much 5%. The more than 1,700 pilots who would have been furloughed by the Atlanta-based airline at the end of the month will get partial pay of 30 hours a month and will not have to fly. The plan won 74% approval, said the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents Delta's nearly 13,000 pilots.

"Pilots, as long-term stakeholders in our Company, have stepped up to the plate once again to help Delta weather this crisis," union spokesman Chris Riggins said in a note to pilots.

U.S. airlines have shed more than 70,000 workers this year — including more than 30,000 involuntary cuts at American and United combined, and tens of thousands of voluntary departures. The country's carriers have lost more than $20 billion in the last two quarters and have scrambled to cut costs as the virus keeps many potential customers from flying.

Delta has avoided involuntary furloughs thanks to the deal and the thousands of employees that accepted buyouts and voluntary leaves of absence. Delta has also cut ground workers' hours by 25%.

"We are grateful to keep all our pilots actively employed and provide stability for you and your families," John Laughter, Delta's chief of operations, said in a memo to pilots Wednesday.

He cautioned about challenges due to spikes in coronavirus infections.

"Our recovery will be uneven — as evident by the recent increase in COVID rates which are affecting our bookings for the holiday season," Laughter wrote. "But there is still much to be thankful for, and by working together we continue to maintain and grow a loyal customer base that feels confident choosing Delta time and again for our safety, reliability and service."

Southwest Airlines is negotiating with several of its unions on cost-cutting and other measures that it has said could prevent its first involuntary furloughs in its nearly 50 years of flying.