Delta Air Lines says it is avoiding involuntary layoffs for most employees

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Delta Flight 2020, is the first flight out of the new terminal at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

As the new Salt Lake City International Airport opened on Tuesday, Delta Air Lines announced that it is avoiding involuntary furloughs for most of its employees through next spring — except perhaps pilots.

However, it is extending a 25% work-hour reduction for ground-based merit and front-line employees through the end of the year to help preserve jobs.

Delta has about 4,000 employees in Utah, and Salt Lake City International Airport is its fourth largest hub behind Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote a memo to all airline employees Tuesday saying that most layoffs at the airline will be avoided through the reduction in work hours, savings from scaled-back operations and because 20% of its employees exited voluntarily.

“Delta will be able to avoid involuntary furloughs for our flight attendants and ground-based frontline employees in the U.S., as we’ve effectively managed our staffing between now and the start of peak summer 2021 travel,” he wrote.

“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.”

However, Bastian said the airline expects to have too many pilots as of Oct. 1.

“There still is time to mitigate this potential furlough and discussions are ongoing with the pilots' union as we continue to look for ways to cost-effectively reduce or eliminate this number,” he wrote.

Bastian says despite avoiding most layoffs, the airline is “still in a grim economic situation.”

He added, “It’s clear the recovery will be long and choppy. We’re still flying just 30 percent of the passenger volumes we had this time last year and are currently burning about $750 million in cash a month.”

He looks forward to improvement once a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.

But, he said, “Even when a vaccine is developed and distributed, it will take time for business travel to come back, because of the damage that’s been done to the global economy.”

Bastian said he will continue to work without a salary himself through the end of the year, and all officers' salaries are being reduced by 50% through that period.