Delta has told its pilots it plans to have them all back to flying status by October to get ready for a return to more normal operations. A memo from Chief of Operations John Laughter says details will be unveiled March 5 and COVID-19-idled pilots can expect a busy summer of training and refreshers. “Looking ahead, we’re preparing to potentially build back to 2019 levels of flying by summer 2023,” he wrote. “This decision is a significant step to position Delta for the network recovery and supports projected customer demand.”
Laughter said the company believes the domestic leisure market will recover first as the waning pandemic allows people to visit friends and relatives for the first time in more than a year. That will be followed by domestic business travel and finally international traffic.
Delta hasn’t furloughed any of its pilots during the downturn. It cut a deal with the union to take some of them off the schedule and reduce pay to help the airline survive. That deal lasts until next January. Laughter said the airline’s recovery and the fortunes of the pilots are dependent on how the pandemic recovery progresses. “There continues to be uncertainty and choppiness in the path ahead so we need to stay agile and ready to adjust quickly,” Laughter wrote. “Our customer will dictate the pace of our recovery.”