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Delta Air Lines gears up to hire 1,000 pilots in response to travel surge

written by Isabella Richards | June 22, 2021
A350 Delta Air Lines (Delta Air Lines)

In a memo released on Monday to Delta Air Lines staff, the company revealed it is preparing to hire over 1,000 pilots by next summer, after making many redundant over the course of the pandemic.

As travel demand bounces back to almost pre pandemic levels, the airline is preparing for the wave of travellers to surge through, following peak US traveler numbers over the weekend.

“This is exciting news both for the pilots looking to join Delta and those of you already on the seniority list because it means career progression opportunities as we continue our recovery, account for scheduled pilot retirements and position for network expansion,” John Laughter, head of operations, said in a memo seen by CNBC and Reuters.

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“The fact that we expect to record a profit in June – just 15 months after the sharpest decline in aviation history – is remarkable,” he said in the memo.

The company plans on building back its network with Spain, France, Italy and Greece, according to the memo.

Over the weekend, TSA checkpoint numbers surged significantly. The same weekend in 2020 saw just over 1 million US travellers, however, the weekend just past saw almost 4 million, just under 2019 numbers.

During the pandemic, Delta furloughed almost 2,000 pilots because the airline was overstaffed in ratio to available flights.

Last year, the Atlanta based airline lost a total of US$12.4 billion during the crisis, and this year alone already seeing a US$1.2 billion loss in the first quarter, worse than expected.

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It comes two months after the airline was forced to cancel around 100 flights over the Easter weekend in April, due to a shortage of active pilots and other staff.

During that time, the airline said that the cancellations were partially due to “large numbers of employee vaccinations” as well as “pilots returning to active status”.

As per US Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, pilots are required to wait at least 48 hours after each dose of the vaccine before they are allowed to return to active duty as a pilot.

The airline’s self-reported “staffing issues” are the likely results of a slew of early retirements and voluntary redundancies that were taken by pilots throughout the year.

However, now the company anticipates to generate a pre-tax profit in the second half of the year, after the losses in the first half.

Southwest airlines also began recalling pilots in April, to be retrained by this earlier this month. Around 200 pilots came back from the voluntary leave program to prepare for the summer schedule.

Over the weekend, however, American Airlines were forced to cancel more than 300 flights due to a staff shortage. This is because 1,600 pilots were furloughed in October last year, but still are yet to retrain, or are currently going through the process.

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