Delta plans to bring back 400 pilots, signaling optimism about future air travel

Pilots talk after exiting a Delta Airlines flight at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.

Michael A. McCoy | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines is planning to bring hundreds of its pilots back by this summer as the airline seeks to position itself for a rebound in travel demand.

Delta’s pilots avoided furloughs last year after the union in the fall agreed to reduced pay and no flying requirements for some 1,700 junior aviators. Delta is now going to offer some 400 of them active status, according to a company memo. That will require additional flight training to fly certain aircraft.

The pilots are already receiving regular pay under $15 billion in additional government aid that Congress approved late last year in the latest coronavirus relief package.

“As we looked at ways to better position ourselves to support the projected recovery, we saw an opportunity to build back additional pilot staffing in advance of summer 2022 by bringing 400 affected pilots back to active flying status by this summer,” wrote John Laughter, senior vice president of flight operations, in a Jan. 21 staff note that was seen by CNBC. “This is well ahead of when we originally estimated we would be able to convert pilots back to full flying status and is possible because of the PSP aid and available training capacity starting in March and April.”

Delta didn’t immediately comment.

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