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Delta to Avoid Involuntary Furloughs for Flight Attendants, Ground Crews

Delta Air Lines will not have to implement involuntary furloughs for flight attendants or frontline ground employees next month, CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo on Tuesday.

The carrier had an “enormous response” to voluntary departure and early retirement packages offered over the summer, with about 20 percent of Delta’s employees taking those options, according to Bastian. About 40,000 employees also signed up for short- and long-term unpaid leaves of absence, and ground-based employees have had work hours reduced by a quarter, which Delta now has extended through the end of the year, he said. In addition, Delta has secured $6.5 billion in financing secured by its SkyMiles program.

All of those measures means Delta has “effectively managed our staffing between now and the start of peak summer 2021 travel,” Bastian said in the memo.

Oct. 1 marks the end of the period in which U.S. airlines, per the Covid-19 relief package passed earlier this year, agreed not to implement involuntary furloughs. United Airlines, for example, for several months has been preparing employees for massive furloughs. On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, United CEO Scott Kirby said the carrier potentially will have to lay off about 16,000 employees if the aid is not extended, though the carrier is working with unions to reduce that number.

“We raised about $18 billion in capital since this started to get through the crisis, but in a world where we’re still burning $25 million per day, you just can’t go forever on that,” Kirby said, according to a transcript provided by CBS News. “Our view is, demand is not coming back. People are not going to get back and travel like they did before until there’s a vaccine that’s been widely distributed and available to a large portion of the population.”

Delta pilots still could face furloughs after the Oct. 1 deadline, as the carrier projects it will have more pilots than needed at that time. Bastian said Delta is working with its pilots’ union “to cost-effectively reduce or eliminate this number.” Bastian also hopes for an extension of federal aid, but that “looks uncertain,” he said. 

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