Delta Air Lines will not furlough any flight attendants and front-line workers in 2020 due to the many employees who opted for early retirement, the airline announced on Tuesday.
More than 40,000 employees voluntarily signed up for short- and long-term unpaid leaves of absences and 20 percent chose to voluntarily exit the company, CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees. Delta also scaled down operations and reduced ground-based employees work hours by 25 percent.
“While it is difficult to see so many of our colleagues leave, every one of those departures helped save Delta jobs,” Bastian wrote. “As a result of these actions, Delta will be able to avoid involuntary furloughs for our flight attendants and ground-based frontline employees in the U.S., as we’ve effectively managed our staffing between now and the start of peak summer 2021 travel.”
Bastian said in July that the company had a “real shot” of avoiding layoffs because 20 percent of the workforce voluntarily agreed to retire, which was more than 17,000 employees. Delta employed nearly 90,000 people at the beginning of 2020.
Delta still expects to lay off pilots on Oct. 1, he noted. Airlines are prohibited from firing or laying off any employees until Oct. 1 under the terms of the relief funding they received in March.
“There still is time to mitigate this potential furlough and discussions are ongoing with the pilots’ unions as we continue to look for ways to cost-effectively reduce or eliminate this number,” he wrote.
Other airlines have already announced massive layoffs on Oct. 1. United Airlines plans to cut 16,370 employees, and American Airlines said last month it expects to ax 19,000 jobs.
Bastian said he is “hopeful” that Congress can extend the relief it gave airlines in March but that a deal on a broader stimulus plan “looks uncertain.”
Senate Democrats last week blocked a GOP coronavirus relief bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday cast doubt on the ability for Congress to get a deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package amid a weeks-long stalemate on negotiations.