In a direct call to passengers who may be frustrated by flight cancellations and delays in advance of the summer travel season, Delta Air Lines pilots published an open letter to customers on Thursday.
“We have been working on our days off, flying a record amount of overtime to help you get to your destination,” the letter states. “At the current rate, by this fall, our pilots will have flown more overtime in 2022 than in the entirety of 2018 and 2019 combined, our busiest years to date.
Approximately 100 daily trips from the U.S. and Latin American locations will be canceled by Delta beginning on July 1 and lasting through August 7. Due to continued staffing shortages and rising demand, several airlines have implemented such tactics.
“If you’ve flown on a plane lately, planes are very full and plane tickets are very expensive,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said Wednesday.
According to individuals with knowledge of the situation, airline CEOs will virtually meet with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg late Thursday to evaluate their operations in the wake of the delays and cancellations.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the pilots’ union, is attempting to negotiate a new contract with the Atlanta-based airline at the same time that the pilots and Delta are at odds. The pilots said they plan to picket Delta’s upcoming shareholder meeting.
“It gives us no pleasure to tell management, ‘We told you so,’” Delta Capt. Jason Ambrosi, an ALPA leader, said in a release accompanying Thursday’s letter. “Pilots are mission-oriented and want to deliver industry-leading operational performance. We’ve picked up record amounts of overtime to help Delta during the recovery.”
In a statement, Delta said: “All of our people, including our pilots, are working hard to restore our airline and deliver for our customers as we emerge from the pandemic. We are grateful for and proud of their efforts.
It continued: “We continuously evaluate our staffing models and plan ahead so that we can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise, and the resilience of the Delta people is unmatched in that regard. Pilot schedules remain in line with all requirements set by the FAA as well as those outlined in our pilot contract.”
According to Kit Darby, president of KitDarby.com Aviation Consulting, LLC, airlines are having trouble keeping up with the surge in demand brought on by the pandemic and the wave of federally required pilot retirements.
“These are excellent jobs, with a career value of $11 million,” Darby said. “It’s hard to believe we have a shortage for an $11 million career, but due to short-sightedness… any solution is going to be three, four, five years away.”