Delta Air Lines — the carrier for 73% of departing flights at Salt Lake City International Airport before COVID-19 hit — asked employees on Thursday to consider financial incentives to retire early or simply leave to avert involuntary furloughs later this year.

“It’s clear that the impact of the pandemic will be lengthy, and that Delta will need to be a smaller airline over the next few years,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote to employees. “We hope to see enough participation in these programs to help us avoid the need for involuntary furloughs later this year.”

He added that “the last thing we expected this year was to be encouraging people to depart — 2020 was expected to be a year of growth.”

Bastian said the window opened this week for the voluntary departure programs. The packages “include cash severance payments, continued health care benefits, enhanced travel privileges including positive space passes, and career transition support,” he said.

Bastian described the offer as “generous, once-in-a-career opportunities to depart Delta with a substantial cash payout and retiree medical benefits. I urge everyone to consider whether this decision makes sense for you and your family.”

As another sign of changes from COVID-19, Bastian also announced it will soon launch a program to test all employees both for the active virus and antibodies. "Next week we’ll be starting a program in Minneapolis, then in Atlanta, Detroit and New York, which will evolve into a full testing protocol – something that will be essential as we protect your health and begin the return to normal operations,” he wrote.

At the same time, the airline is creating a new organization to oversee improved health and safety, called Delta Global Cleanliness. Bastian said it “will own the execution and continued evolution of our standards and policies to ensure a consistently safe and sanitized customer and employee experience.”

JetBlue, which has had about 2,000 Utah workers for its customer services operations based here, also this week offered its employees incentives to leave to avoid involuntary furloughs.