Delta Air Lines pilots released an open letter to customers Thursday in a direct appeal to those who may be frustrated by flight delays and cancellations ahead of the summer travel season.
“We’ve been working on our days off, putting in a record amount of overtime to help get you where you’re going,” the letter reads. “At the current rate, by this fall our drivers will have worked more overtime in 2022 than in all of 2018 and 2019 combined, our busiest years yet.
Delta recently announced it was canceling about 100 daily departures from destinations in the United States and Latin America, affecting travel from July 1 through August 7. Other airlines have taken similar steps amid staff shortages and growing demand.
“If you’ve flown recently, the planes are very full and the plane tickets are very expensive,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell said Wednesday.
Airline CEOs will meet virtually with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday night to discuss their operations following the delays and cancellations, people familiar with the matter told CNBC on Thursday.
The pilots’ dispute with Delta comes as the pilots’ union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), seeks to negotiate a new contract with the Atlanta-based carrier. The pilots said they plan to picket at Delta’s upcoming shareholder meeting.
“It gives us no pleasure to say to management, ‘We told you so,'” Delta Captain Jason Ambrosi, an ALPA executive, said in a statement accompanying Thursday’s letter. “Pilots are mission-driven and want to deliver industry-leading operational performance. We’ve racked up a record number of overtime hours to help Delta through the recovery.
In a statement, Delta said, “All of our employees, including our pilots, are working hard to restore our airline and deliver to our customers as we emerge from the pandemic. We are grateful and proud of their efforts.
He continued, “We are constantly evaluating our staffing models and planning ahead so that we can recover quickly when unforeseen circumstances arise, and the resilience of Delta’s staff is unmatched in this regard. Pilot schedules remain comply with all the requirements set by the FAA as well as those described in our pilot contract.
Kit Darby, President of KitDarby.com Aviation Consulting, LLC, recently told NBC News that airlines are grappling with soaring demand resulting from the pandemic that has coincided with a wave of federally mandated pilot retirements.
“These are great jobs, with an $11 million career value,” Darby said. “It’s hard to believe we have a shortage for an $11 million career, but due to myopia…any solution will be in three, four, five years.”