Wow: Delta Won’t Furlough Any Flight Attendants

Filed Under: Delta

There’s some great news for Delta flight attendants…

Delta won’t be furloughing any flight attendants

Delta Air Lines confirmed yesterday that it won’t be furloughing any flight attendants next month. As a Delta spokesperson explains:

“We’re grateful for the continued rallying spirit of Delta people during the pandemic. With the overwhelming response of flight attendants choosing to participate in our creative staffing options – and based on our current network schedule – we are positioned well to be able to successfully manage through our flight attendant overstaffing situation.”

US airlines received billions of dollars in government support through the CARES Act, which included a Payroll Support Program. As a condition of accepting this, airlines had to promise not to involuntarily furlough any US-based workers before October 1. With this funding soon running out, we’re seeing many airlines announce layoffs starting in October.

For a bit of context:

  • Southwest isn’t furloughing any employees as of October
  • The only workgroup at Delta that’s seeing furloughs is pilots, as around 2,000 will be furloughed
  • American is furloughing 19,000 employees, 8,100 of which are flight attendants
  • United is furloughing 16,000+ employees, nearly 7,000 of which are flight attendants

How was Delta able to avoid flight attendant furloughs?

Well it depends who you ask, but there are likely a few contributing factors. First of all, it’s interesting to note that Delta’s flight attendants aren’t unionized, while Delta’s pilots are. There has been a big push to get Delta flight attendants to unionize, so we’ll see what impact this situation has on that.

What factors into Delta’s lack of furloughs? For one, Delta managed to get more flight attendants to accept either leaves of absence or early outs than at American and United. Potential explanations for this are that:

  • Delta has a better corporate culture, and employees are more invested in the future of the company, especially given the extent to which the airline offers employees profit sharing
  • Delta largely offered more lucrative voluntary packages than competing airlines
  • Maybe some employees took packages out of fear of being laid off; since Delta flight attendants aren’t unionized, the airline has more discretion about how it can do layoffs, beyond just going based on strict seniority

There are likely a couple of other factors as well:

  • Unlike at American and United, Delta flight attendants don’t receive pay for any minimum monthly flown hours, so potentially flight attendants will be taking huge pay cuts, since they’ll be flying less
  • Given that unionization of flight attendants was a big discussion pre-pandemic, I’m sure Delta management wanted to go out of its way to demonstrate how it treats employees better than other airlines

Bottom line

American and United are furloughing 15,000+ flight attendants combined, while Delta won’t furlough any.

What ultimately caused this? A combination of factors, including more employees taking voluntary separation packages (likely for a variety of reasons), and also Delta not guaranteeing a minimum number of monthly hours, so it’s potentially lower cost for Delta to keep employees around.

Delta is also in a league of its own in the US by not having unionized flight attendants, and I’m sure the company wanted to use this as an opportunity to differentiate itself and show goodwill.

Are you surprised to see that Delta isn’t furloughing any flight attendants?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments
  1. “Unlike at American and United, Delta flight attendants don’t receive pay for any minimum monthly flown hours, so potentially flight attendants will be taking huge pay cuts, since they’ll be flying less”

    If Delta FA’s are truly variable costs (vs. partially fixed costs at UA, AA) that’s the reason.

  2. I’m a Delta flight attendant. At the beginning of August, management informed us that they would need 3000 more fas to take either a 4, 6, 8, or 12 month leave, or fly on/off every other month, or a split line, or a take temporary duty assignment in catering/tower/ACS until june 2021 to avoid furloughs and maintain a schedule value of 71 hours. Enough flight attendants took these options so there will be no furloughs at least for the upcoming fall/winter. For people who can afford to take leaves or choose to participate in the fly on/off option, medical/dental is paid by the company and you continue to accrue seniority and pay rate which makes taking a leave more attractive. I chose to fly a split line because I liked flying low time before this all started anyway. We do not have a minimum monthly guarantee because we do not have straight reserve and have great flexibility with our schedules . Most monthly schedule values fluctuated between 74-82 depending on time of year prior to covid and has been around 74 since. If someone is working 2 hours a month or taking a pay cut it is by choice. I don’t know about you but I personally prefer having a choice vs just being flat out furloughed. For the record I signed an AFA and IAM card but not going to lie that this has me second guessing that decision.

  3. What happened to Delta’s part-time gate agents and customer support staff, ground support staff, and others?

  4. A story about flight attendants working reduced hours without mentioning what happens to their health insurance costs is like a story about a new Boeing aircraft without mentioning how many seats it has.

  5. While good news, Delta can do whatever they want. If COVID is super severe this winter, they could drop many FAs. They can also change the pay and benefits any time. There are pro and cons but I’m going to be a furloughed FA come October but I’m kind of okay with that because I know they will call back. I’d rather have a break where I can pursue other avenues for a while than be hostage to so much uncertainty. Delta FAs will probably never again get any huge profit sharing like this year. The whole reason unions face furlough is because the benefits are more generous. I met many Delta FAs who, while they’ll never say anything negative about the company, tell me core benefits like health care, vacation, retirement is astronomically better at some other airlines. It’s all about what you want – i prefer a contract with everything written down, even a furlough process, so it’s black and white than not knowing from one day to the next what the company is going to do.

  6. Given that unionization of flight attendants was a big discussion pre-pandemic, I’m sure Delta management wanted to go out of its way to demonstrate how it treats employees better than other airlines

    @Ben, you hit the nail on the head with that bullet point…That would be 95% of the motivation IMHO…

    Then add the 5% flexibility they have to offer other positions because you do not have to deal w/ Unions in the other work groups as well…Something that would never work @ UA/AA…

  7. Kudos to delta.
    Waiting for Henry LAX to attack Lucky for posting positive news about Delta.
    Say what you want but Delta financials were the worst in Q2. If ed bastian wanted to make shareholder very very happy, he could’ve lay off however many more people without any repercussions and people would understand (it’s a pandemic) but he chose not to. I wonder how he convinced the board to make the decisions… this could end up very bad for him and delta and shareholders come Q3 and Q4 results.

  8. afa has made 3 failed attempts to organize Delta flight attendants and was forced to withdraw another due to “irregularities” on their part. Delta has blended good employees into the workforce from heavily unionized Western (’87), Pan Am (’91), and Northwest (’08) and still remained union free. Unions are spending millions upon millions of dollars that their current membership pours into their pockets to capture the biggest prize of all – Delta. Yet unions have NEVER been able to negotiate any contract better than what Delta cabin crew already has, nor will they. While many longtime loyal anti-union flight attendants have now retired, afa faces a more insurmountable force in the younger generation that has been treated so well by their company. Call it cunning, manipulative on Delta’s part, if you will… but the truth of it is, Delta’s crews are the best, their customers are the most pleased, and the airline consistently rates at the top in all categories. Bottom Line… afa and any other suitor should save their “rank and file’s” hard earned cash – especially for those more than 15,000 cabin crew at AA and UA who will be furloughed on October 1st. Delta hasn’t needed a union in the past, certainly does not today, and won’t down the road. Delta flight attendants shine like they do because they exist in a work environment of open and honest communication and commitments between frontline and management. I’ve been a member of both elements and it is the best of the best among airlines, bar none.

  9. Dan wrote “i prefer a contract with everything written down, even a furlough process, so it’s black and white than not knowing from one day to the next what the company is going to do”.
    The fact is:
    Delta always treats it’s employees well.
    You don’t have to worry about ‘what the company is going to do” because they do the best.
    No Delta employee is a “hostage to uncertainty” especially the uncertainty of unemployment
    that American and United Flight Attendants are now facing.
    Bottom line:
    Dan wrote “I prefer a contract…even a furlough process”
    Did that piece of paper keep those 15,000 flight attendant jobs safe?
    No. It did not.

  10. afa has made 3 failed attempts to organize Delta flight attendants and was forced to withdraw another due to “irregularities” on their part. Delta has blended good employees into the workforce from heavily unionized Western (’87), Pan Am (’91), and Northwest (’08) and still remained union free. Unions are spending millions upon millions of dollars that their current membership pours into their pockets to capture the biggest prize of all – Delta. Yet unions have NEVER been able to negotiate any contract better than what Delta cabin crew already has, nor will they. While many longtime loyal anti-union flight attendants have now retired, afa faces a more insurmountable force in the younger generation that has been treated so well by their company. Call it cunning, manipulative on Delta’s part, if you will… but the truth of it is, Delta’s crews are the best, their customers are the most pleased, and the airline consistently rates at the top in all categories. Bottom Line… afa and any other suitor should save their “rank and file’s” hard earned cash – especially for those more than 15,000 cabin crew at AA and UA who will be furloughed on October 1st. Delta hasn’t needed a union in the past, certainly does not today, and won’t down the road. Delta flight attendants shine like they do because they exist in a work environment of open and honest communication and commitments between frontline and management. I’ve been a member of both elements and it is the best of the best among airlines, bar none.

  11. Has anyone mentioned the lawsuit in Minnesota about the pre-merger Delta, the Former Northwest employees, who were injured on the job, got a settlement and when they retired, surprise, got their pensions cut because Delta paid themselves back, some employees think it’s because they were unionized before the merger. ???

  12. I prefer non-union employees in most instances. Fortun, Delta has a stronger cash liquidity than others and they will likely need it to get thru this without lay-offs. But that’s why it’s there to use in an emergency. The best thing I see about Delta (and TBH I really don’t enjoy flying them now although I was a loyalist to them for many years way back when) is they have flexibility without unions to respond very quickly during this Covid19 rebound. UA & AA have to build flight schedules around contract rules months in advance whereas DL can more easily add back flights and frequencies if they see a sharp demand one week over another. Because of this they will be the canary in the coal mine signaling regrowth in the industry. They are more nimble than the unionized behomeths.

  13. Unions, almost without fail, are the problem rather than the solution. This is simply another piece of evidence to support that theory. Kudos to the Delta Difference. I hope those furloughed cabin crew at AA and UA are watching……

  14. As a former AA FA who took an early out package, as I’m ready to begin a new career, I’ve always admired Delta. It’s “the dream” airline to work for among the FA’s. It must be wonderful to work for an airline that doesn’t have to have a union in order to be taken care of fairly. I’m talking everyday operations, rather than the furloughs. It’s been a very challenging and disheartening time for everyone in our industry. I do feel that AA handled this situation very well offering continued communication and fair packages to the employees. The furloughs are very unfortunate but hoping they will all be flying again soon.

  15. Good job Delta.
    You will have my future business.
    We have had very good service on the ground and in the air on all of out pre covid flights on Delta. Good attitudes all around.

    Contrast that to the substandard treatment we have received in the air from AA. The crews who insist they are there primarily for our safety and their convince.
    My wife and had been EXP for 5 Years. I have a million miles on AA, all in paid first class. Parker has ran the airline into the ground. First class cabins have got tighter ,and service Is begrudgingly given.
    Morale is terrible and the crews take it out on passengers.. UA is even worse.

    Thanks for showing leadership Delta. ( your mileage plan still stinks)

  16. Trying to figure out why you typically recap an article and then at the bottom recap the recap! Often with nearly the exact same words. Seems so redundant. Is this to meet a certain word count?

  17. I wonder how much the 20 billion dollar bail out of tax payer money had to do with delta’s decision making, government said no layoffs if they want the money!!

  18. As a Flight Attendant at TWA we negotiated an industry leading contract in FA work rules. In 2001 we aligned with American Airlines. APFA STAPLED us to the bottom of the seniority list. Gone anywhere from 10-35 years seniority, pension & welcome 5-10year layoffs after 911. AA had 25,000 FAs we had about 2,500. APFA would not even MERGE our seniority like Delta did with PanAm. Later congessional legislation was passed to ALWAYS merge seniority but to this day APFU will not budge even though we are now only 556 TWAers left at American. I’m still working as a senior citizen to compensate their injustice

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