September 15, 2020

How culture and creativity saved thousands of Delta jobs

Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of Delta employees and creative thinking, Delta will avoid involuntary furloughs for the airline’s ground and flight attendant groups in the U.S.

CEO Ed Bastian shared in a memo to all employees today that Delta has effectively managed staffing between now and the peak 2021 summer season for most frontline groups.

“Avoiding involuntary furloughs in this unprecedented environment is entirely due to the innovation, hard work and shared sacrifice of our people,” Bastian said. “Our teams have done an extraordinary job identifying opportunities to spread work around and shift people into new roles that are essential to our business.”

COVID-19’s impact to the airline industry has been staggering. In the early days of the crisis, Delta was faced with an unprecedented decline in customer demand, resulting in the largest capacity reduction in Delta’s history. The company responded with swift, decisive action to protect the business, from immediately parking aircraft to reducing capital expenditures.

Delta people rallied just as quickly. Within days, roughly 10,000 Delta people volunteered to participate in an unpaid, voluntary leave of absence to protect the company. Since then, the road to recovery has proven to be long and choppy, but Delta people have proven to be equally resilient.

Since the start of the pandemic, the actions of Delta people have resulted in:

  • 175,000 letters to Congress explaining the critical need for relief, helping ensure the passage of the CARES Act
  • More than 40,000 employees volunteering to take an unpaid leave of absence
  • Nearly 17,000 employees choosing to depart the company through a voluntary package, preserving jobs for others. The average tenure of departing employees was almost 25 years, with nearly 400,000 total combined years of service to Delta
  • Lowered the daily cash burn to $27 million each day in June – from $100 million in March

Despite these efforts, the severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis resulted in the business remaining overstaffed in certain areas. Employees and leaders worked together to create unique ideas to protect Delta jobs.

Flight attendants volunteered to assist with jobs on the ground and participate in a Fly On/Off program, a rotating month-on, month-off schedule. Airport customer service teams are considering new roles like wheelchair handling, aircraft servicing, cargo handling and into-plane fueling. Reservations specialists quickly trained in new areas to support different lines of work. To secure TechOps employment, Delta is leveraging its MRO business and partnerships with Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce.

Delta flight attendant Armando Catter responded to Delta’s call to support the company early on in the pandemic. With a background in industrial engineering, Armando saw an opportunity to use his skills and knowledge of production lines to benefit the company and move to the In-Flight Service Hospitality Support Team​.

“To me, the biggest satisfaction is that I’m still being helpful to the company. If you don’t need me flying, I’m not flying. I’m filling a void in a different department,” Catter said. “You have to look at the bigger picture, you have to look at what will help the company as a whole.”