Delta CEO thanks more than 17,000 staff who voluntarily agree to leave

As a significant number of Delta employees depart this week, the Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian expressed his sincere gratitude in a staff memo, to more than 17,000 employees who have agreed to take the airline's voluntary leave packages.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A321 which was painted in "Thank You Livery" in February 2020. Photo by Brandon Ravelo | AeroNewsX

Delta Air Lines has been actively encouraging employees to take up the voluntary redundancy packages as it struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. As losses increase at the airline, the carrier urged their staff to consider taking buyouts and early retirement. To encourage more employees to sign up, other American carriers have in some cases offered years of medical cover, cash severances and even flight benefits for employees who decide to take the early leave packages.

Under the terms of the $25 billion federal aid package commonly referred to as the CARES Act, airlines are prohibited from letting employees go until October 1st. However, this does not prevent airlines from offering employees an incentivised package for leaving the company early. In addition, federal rules in the United States generally state that an employer must inform their staff 60 days in advance that their job could be at risk. This means that American carriers will have to inform their employees by the August 2nd deadline that they could lose their job in October.

As the deadline looms and speculation about job security increases, many airline employees are weighing up the voluntary leave packages with the threat of more job losses in October. In the staff memo, the CEO of Delta said that he was acutely aware that “these were difficult, personal decisions for everyone and their families.” He added that with “each person who has opted to exit voluntarily, [it] moves us closer to our goal of minimizing furloughs and positioning Delta to weather the choppy recovery in the months and years ahead.”

This month, Delta acknowledged that more than 2,500 pilots could potentially be furloughed in October when the federal aid payroll support expires on October 1st. Therefore, the Atlanta-based carrier encouraged their pilots to sign up to an early departure package before July 19th.

According to the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta, more than 2,230 pilots have signed up for the voluntary early retirement program. Pilots who have taken the package and qualify for early retirement will receive 58 hours of pay per month for 36 months or until age 65, whichever comes earlier. They will also qualify for certain medical and travel benefits. Early retirements for pilots who signed up will begin from 1st of September. In a statement, the airline said: “This is meaningful progress as we look to mitigate furloughs and our teams are hard at work to determine next steps and evaluate how the pilot early retirement may affect Delta’s overall pilot staffing outlook.”

As employees begin to leave Delta Air Lines early, CEO of Delta Airlines, Ed Bastian posted a thank you message on LinkedIn which read, “it’s an emotional week for the Delta family as we recognize almost 17,000 colleagues who have chosen to voluntarily leave Delta Air Lines. He continued by saying, “with nearly 400,000 total combined years of service, the extraordinary contributions these individuals have made throughout their careers can’t be overstated. To each of you embarking on a new journey, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unwavering dedication, for your unmatched professionalism and most of all, for taking our customers farther than our plane ever could.”

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