Delta Air Lines is set to furlough 1,941 pilots in October, the carrier said in a memo seen by Reuters on Monday that noted the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and plunging air travel demand.
US airlines have warned they will need to furlough tens of thousands of workers once $25 billion in US government stimulus funds run out in September. The aid, which covered employees' pay, was meant to help them weather the pandemic and preserve jobs until a recovery, but travel remains depressed.
"We are simply overstaffed, and we are faced with an incredibly difficult decision," Delta's head of flight operations John Laughter said in a memo to employees.
"We are six months into this pandemic and only 25% of our revenues have been recovered. Unfortunately, we see few catalysts over the next six months to meaningful change this trajectory."
Atlanta-based Delta, one of the largest US airlines, had originally estimated a surplus of 2,558 pilots but reduced the final number of involuntary furloughs following take-up for early retirement and voluntary departure programs.
Based on network projections, Laughter said Delta would need some 9,450 active pilots for the summer 2021 schedule, which the carrier expects will be the peak flying period for the next 12-18 months.
But there were roughly 11,200 active pilots still on Delta's roster after voluntary early departure programs, he said.
Airlines and unions have been lobbying Washington to extend another $25 billion in aid to protect jobs through March under a broader expansion of coronavirus stimulus funds, but talks are at a standstill.
American Airlines and United Airlines, Delta's major rivals, have warned they could potentially cull more than 60,000 jobs in October.
Delta also announced on Monday the retirement of Chief Operating Officer Gil West, who helped lead the merger integration of Delta and Northwest after joining the company in 2008.
West will stay on through the end of September while the company evaluates "how to best transition his responsibilities in the current environment," Chief Executive Ed Bastian said in a separate note to employees.