Delta Air Lines has told pilots it will not furlough them for a year if they accept a 15 percent cut to guaranteed pay, according a memo sent to staff on Friday.“Our approach is to spread the work of a smaller airline among all our pilots to preserve all jobs — that would be unheard of in our history,” John Laughter, senior vice president of flight operations, said in the memo, which was reviewed by The New York Times.
In a statement, the airline’s pilots union, the Delta Master Executive Council, accused the company of sidestepping negotiations, saying it was “not in a position” to consider the proposal outlined in the memo.
“Being that we are in active negotiations, having met with the company just yesterday, we are surprised that Delta decided today to negotiate in public directly with our pilots,” said the union, which represents 14,000 pilots. “It is imperative during this process to maintain an environment that gives our negotiating committee the breathing room to work professionally and productively.”
The federal stimulus that Congress passed in March provided airlines with $25 billion to pay workers as long as the companies refrained from substantial job cuts through Sept. 30. Delta received $5.4 billion in mostly grants and some loans, second only to American Airlines, which received $5.8 billion.
American said this week that it might have to furlough as many as 20,000 workers when that federal program ends. United Airlines, which received $5 billion, said last week that it could cut as many as 36,000 jobs.
All three airlines have offered employees buyout and early retirement packages to avoid deeper cuts. At Delta, 1,700 pilots have accepted voluntary packages, though more may volunteer before a Sunday deadline. Last month, the airline sent out legally required notices to nearly 2,600 pilots warning them that they could be furloughed in the months to come. It was not immediately clear if those pilots would be spared under the new proposal.
Airlines with unionized pilots and flight attendants typically guarantee those workers a minimum number of flight hours per month. Under the Delta proposal, the airline would reduce that minimum guarantee by up to 15 percent. Any pilot who works more than the minimum would be paid accordingly and the airline would unwind the reduction as it adds more flights.
Like other airlines, Delta saw a steady rise in passengers just a few weeks ago, but that growth has stalled as coronavirus infections surged in much of the United States. The airline this week reported that revenue declined by 91 percent during the depth of the coronavirus crisis in the second quarter of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.