Delta won’t furlough pilots; job cuts possible at Southwest

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
In this May 28, 2020, file photo, a passenger wears personal protective equipment on a Delta Airlines flight after landing at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, in Minneapolis. Airlines are trying to convince a frightened public that measures like mandatory face masks and hospital-grade air filters make sitting in a plane safer than many other indoor settings during the coronavirus pandemic, but it isn’t working.

By David Koenig, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Delta Air Lines on Wednesday dropped a threat to furlough more than 1,700 pilots after they ratified a cost-cutting agreement that the airline said was needed to help it cope with a downturn caused by the pandemic.

The airline had planned to furlough about 13% of its 12,900 pilots on Saturday if an agreement to reduce costs wasn’t reached.

The deal doesn’t cut pilot pay rates, but it indirectly lowers their pay by reducing guaranteed monthly working hours by up to 5%. In exchange, Delta promised not to furlough pilots through Jan. 1, 2022.

The Air Line Pilots Association said about four-fifths of its Delta members voted and 74% of those ratified the deal.

The union said the 1,713 pilots who would have been furloughed will get 30 hours of pay per month and keep their benefits. They won’t fly but will be notified if they can be recalled to service, the union said.

Atlanta-based Delta has also cut hours for ground workers to save money, but it has avoided furloughs — layoffs of union workers who have rehiring rights. American Airlines furloughed 19,000 workers and United cut about 13,000 in October after billions in federal payroll aid ran out.

Southwest Airlines has warned its unions their members could face the first furloughs in Southwest history if they don’t accept concessions in exchange for job security through 2021. The airline says it is overstaffed by an estimated $1 billion.

Dallas-based Southwest has sent letters warning more than 1,900 workers that their jobs could be eliminated starting in late January unless the airline gets union concessions or more federal aid.

Across the industry, tens of thousands of other employees took buyouts or early retirements this year as the airlines’ financial situation grew more dire.

U.S. air travel remains down more than 60% from a year ago, causing the airlines to report billions in losses.

Delta’s chief of operations, John Laughter, told pilots in a memo Wednesday that the airline’s recovery from the pandemic will be uneven. He said the recent increase in virus cases is affecting bookings for the holiday season.

©The Associated Press 2020

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