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Delta’s Pilot Workforce Overstaffed by 7,000

Delta’s first A220 in Atlanta (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Peter Biondi)

A Delta Air Lines internal memo to its’ pilots obtained by Reuters warned that it may have as many as 7,000 too many pilots to fly its airplanes by the Fall of 2020. The number represents approximately half of its 13,100 pilot workforce.

John Laughter, SVP of Flight Operations for Delta, stated in the memo “I recognize that is an alarming number so it’s important to know that our intent is to align staffing for what we need over the long term.”

The expected pilot reductions will be significantly offset by pilots who will reach the Federal Aviation Administration mandated retirement age of 65 for commercial pilots in the coming months. The actual number of pilots expected to be involuntarily impacted by possible furloughs is believed to be between 2,500 and 3,500, according to Laughter. 

In a separate Thursday memo to employees, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastien announced the retirement of the entire B777 fleet. The fleet, primarily used for long-haul and international routes, entered service with Delta in 1999. This, in addition to the previously announced accelerated retirements for the MD-88 and MD-90 fleets, will be the driving force for the staffing adjustments.

“Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero by the end of the year, which will mean, for the next two to three years, a smaller network, fleet and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand. Retiring a fleet as iconic as the 777 is not an easy decision – I know it has a direct impact on many of you who fly, crew and service these jets,” Bastian’s memo said.

This story was updated on May 15, 2020 at 9:18 p.m. ET to correct a factual error. The correct date in the opening paragraph was 2020, not 2021. 

Rick Shideler


  • Rick Shideler

    Rick is a retired airline maintenance professional with over 40 years experience in commercial, corporate and military aviation sectors. Rick holds an FAA Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) and a FCC General RadioTelephone Licenses. Rick is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has served in multiple leadership positions including Director of Maintenance for a large corporate aviation firm, airline Director of Engineering and has chaired multiple aviation maintenance safety and reliability industry committees. Rick took his first airplane ride at six months old and became an airline geek shortly thereafter.

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