As the COVID-19 vaccinations rollout across the globe, Delta Air Lines plans to bring 400 affected pilots back to flying by the summer of 2021, signaling optimism in the aviation sector.
Delta Air Lines Senior Vice President and Chief of Operations, John Laughter, said in a memo to employees on January 21, 2021, that the airline is returning pilots, who were affected by the workforce reductions, to active flying thanks to the federal aid support program and increased distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“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,” Laughter said in a memo that was seen by Reuters.
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However, the memo outlined that the airline is expecting the first quarter of 2021 to look very much like the fourth quarter of 2020, with $10-15 million average cash burn per day and with similarly low air traffic demand.
In October 2020, Delta had planned to furlough more than 1,700 pilots in order to cut costs. However, the airline backed down from the initial plan after the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) agreed with Delta to indirectly lower pilot wages by removing them from active flying and reducing flying hours.
On January 25, 2021, Delta appointed doctor Henry Ting to be the airline’s first Chief Health Officer, saying that health and safety is a top priority during the COVID-19 crisis.
“In this new role, Henry will lead us in rethinking and reimagining our approach to health and well-being, utilizing new technologies, artificial intelligence, data strategies and innovative partnerships,” Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, wrote in a statement.