Delta Plans to Bring 400 Grounded Pilots Back to Active Flying Status by Summer

Major airlines in the U.S. were forced to furlough and layoff thousands of employees in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown travel

Delta Air Lines Bombardier CRJ 200 Landing In New York
Delta Air Lines plane. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty

Delta Air Lines is calling many of their pilots back to work.

Earlier this month, Delta's senior vice president of flight operations John Laughter detailed in a memo to staff that the airline plans to return 400 pilots to regular flying status by summer 2021, so they are ready to fly again by summer 2022, according to a report from CNBC.

"As we looked at ways to better position ourselves to support the projected recovery, we saw an opportunity to build back additional pilot staffing in advance of summer 2022 by bringing 400 affected pilots back to active flying status by this summer," Laughter said in his staff note, per the publication.

He explained that it is "well ahead of when we originally estimated we would be able to convert pilots back to full flying status," adding that the feat "is possible because of the PSP [Payroll Support Program] aid and available training capacity starting in March and April."

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The 400 pilots scheduled to return to work are not new hires, the Associated Press adds, but are instead employees who avoided furloughs last year. Delta's pilots avoided temporary leaves of absence in 2020 after their union agreed for less-senior pilots to receive reduced pay and be removed from active flying.

Now, Delta will offer "some 400 of them active status," according to CNBC, and the new status will include required flight training to fly select aircraft.

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These new trainings are necessary due to the retirement of both pilots and aircrafts, as well as reduced flying amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the outlet adds.

The process can take months, which is why Delta is aiming to have these pilots — who have been receiving pay under last year's COVID relief bill — trained and ready to fly by next summer.

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In his memo, Laughter also noted that is important for Delta staff to remain cautious about the path ahead.

"We're excited to be able to offer 400 full-time pilot positions now, but it's important to remember that the recovery road ahead of us will be long and choppy," he noted.

Still, Laughter also shared that he hopes that travel will soon get back to it's normal levels thanks in part to the recently released COVID-19 vaccine.

"We're cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccinations roll out across the world, and we look forward to restoring all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues," he added.

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