Delta Air Lines Says No To Furloughing Flight Attendants

Delta Air Lines won’t be furloughing any flight attendants this year, even as its largest competitors lay off thousands.

American Airlines is furloughing 8099 flight attendants. United Airlines is furloughing thousands as well.

While Southwest Airlines isn’t furloughing anyone, and Delta can’t say that, since they’ve announced nearly 2000 furloughs for their unionized pilots, they are able to avoid doing the same thing with their cabin crew.

A month ago they shared that 17,000 total employees were leaving the airline voluntarily, and that they needed 3000 flight attendants to take leaves to avoid furloughs. Now Delta Air Lines has let flight attendants know that they don’t need to let anyone go from that work group.

A spokesperson confirms to me,

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.

Delta’s cabin crew are celebrating.

Last Labor Day Delta gave its non-union workforce a big raise. This Labor Day their flight attendants get to keep their jobs. Sara Nelson’s AFA-CWA has been trying to organize Delta flight attendants but hasn’t been able to do nearly as well for her members at United Airlines. Delta has made a strong argument to its flight attendants not to unionize.

I’ve reached out to Delta and will update if they provide a response.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. A lot of Delta’s FA’s took early out from my sources inside there. They were spooked into taking them with potential furloughs. Also, being non-Union, the Company could arbitrarily force a paycut or retirement (IE fire) anyone who doesn’t take an early out. So it’s not as pretty as it seems.

  2. Since there is likely going to be another bailout which would prevent layoffs Delta can use this as a PR opportunity. Additionally, this is more good will for them the next time unionization comes up.

  3. No unions, no furloughs!
    Pilots unionized, furloughed!
    Does this mean something? I say it definitely does. If you work for a union, let the union protect you! If you work for me, I’ll protect you!

  4. Delta FAs have no contractual minimum monthly pay, unlike AA or UA. Were the labor situations at parity, then it’s probably a different story at DAL. But in the meantime, plenty of Delta flight attendants with be taking dramatic (effective) pay cuts.

  5. Anonymous, no one was spooked into or threatened with furlough. The company offered amazing early separation/retirement packages to save other jobs. The rest of us have made sacrifices, but our jobs are SECURE. Stop spreading lies. It IS as pretty as it seems. Eric

  6. Agree with Eric.

    Simply, we were presented with facts, and responded appropriately.

    I’d rather take an “hours flown” pay cut over an hourly pay cut.


  7. I say keep the union out They did nothing for me when I needed them most they are money grubbing do nothings when push comes to shove.

  8. Hooray! Where Delta can be creative with job opportunities for FAs, where other carriers cant because of contracts, this has saved r jobs!

  9. The retirement offer from Delta was amazing! And it saved jobs. No threats, no being “spooked into taking “ the package. Just a great company doing the very best possible under extraordinarily difficult times. Flight Attendants have been offered jobs in other departments to prevent furloughs. That cannot happen if a union is charge. Look at AA and United!

  10. Anonymous, You know not what you speak of. You ‘heard’ this from ‘sources’ but I can tell you from first hand experience that this is far from the truth. There was never anything other than very generous offers to try to avoid involuntary furloughs. Hopefully we can avoid payouts as well. I just love it when outsiders with some kind of grudge try to knock down Delta simply because the majority of our workforce is not unionized.

  11. The company has been entirely transparent with the workforce from day one. From holding countless town hall meetings to daily corporate updates to 24/7 access to ask questions and get answers, we have known from the start what the situation is. The company never pushed anyone to take a package; they simply offered it and worked tirelessly to answer everyone’s questions so they could make the right decision for them and their families. It also helps that the package we offered was by far the most generous of any carrier.

    The way our scheduling works at Delta is different from our unionized counterparts. We don’t have straight reserve schedules that necessitate a minimum monthly guarantee, however we have all kinds of pay guarantees that are applied to the trips we receive and have complete flexibility to add or remove flying from our schedule. I prefer high time, so I work to get my schedule to 135+ block hours. Many prefer low time and drop their schedule down to 1 or 2 trips. You can make as much or as little income as you wish with the way the system is set up.

    As for pay cuts, they are a last resort, and in lieu of cutting the hourly wage rates, we are on a 25% hour reduction currently for ground employees. This saves labor costs but ensures coming out on the other side of the recovery, our employees can remain at their current level of pay. Should further cuts be necessary, they would be temporary and ultimately, saving the jobs of countless thousands of our colleagues is worth a short-term sacrifice.

    I was a unionized FA for years- I’ve seen both sides of the equation. Some companies have a truly adversarial relationship between management and labor- for those companies, a union serves a purpose. However, Delta has consistently been industry leading in work rules, compensation and benefits, and none of it requires a third party to come in and destroy the culture we have built up.

    Today is an amazing day for Delta!

  12. Some of the “creative” job options made them do completely different jobs, like catering. Hope that PlayStation they could afford by not paying union dues was worth it . I’d rather just be furloughed and have a great union contract to come back to.

  13. No we did not get pay cut. We have a guarantee and it’s flight. We don’t do fill reserve so ours is a different system. I don’t understand why anytime any good comes from Delta OAL folks attack us being non union.

  14. This speaks to the flexibility a company has in working directly with employees when no union is involved. A lot of sacrificing (shared lines and one on, one off schedules) and job role changes (catering and res temporary transfers) occurred to make this happen.

    Bottom line: AA & UA with large, bureaucratic unions failed miserably to do their core job, protecting their membership. DL without a union, was able to accomplish far better job security for far more flight attendants. It speaks volumes.

  15. My experience with airline unions was mostly distasteful.
    The union reps had super seniority & were often unreachable at fully paid conferences at 5 star hotels.
    The only union worth mentioning for its service was IUFA at Pan Am…an in-house union staffed only by active flight attendants. IUFA was the best.

  16. @Eric
    Delta’s early retirement packages were incredible! I am sure many of the senior employees were quite happy with the offers and took them with no regrets. From what I read, younger employees with 25 years, received almost everything had they stayed until 65. Again, incredible!

  17. @Zoe forget play station, they paid out an extra 16.7% of pay on average to employees in profit sharing, Delta employees have been earning more for awhile. You’re really criticizing the airline for finding jobs for people to do, to continue paying them, you’d rather be on unemployment?

  18. @Anonymous FA’s with 30-50+ years of seniority comprised the majority of those who availed themselves of the enhanced retirement package. They were not “spooked” since they would not have been furloughed anyway. For many who were at or close to retirement age, it was an offer hard to refuse, and it was enticing even to many Delta FA’s still years away from Medicare and Social Security.

    @JohnB Nevertheless, the choice to walk away from a great job, lifestyle, and company was not without regrets or taken easily for most.

  19. Wow. Anonymous got bad information. Wonder why she/he won’t leave their name? Perhaps working for IAM or AFA? Delta has been great to us flight attendants. I hope we stay non union!
    I’m going “anonymous” also so I don’t get bombarded with union letters/cards/untruths!

  20. Hey anonymous. Why not leave your name? Are you perhaps associated with IAM or AFA? You have gotten bad information about Delta. Check your facts. No one was pressured. The package was very good. The ones who retired would not have been furloughed anyway. Fake news? I am a Delta flight attendant with 42 years. I hope we stay non union. Delta has treated us well.

  21. 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.

  22. Congratulations to Delta for figuring out how to avoid FA layoffs but even with all of the voluntary departures the FA’s that remain on the job will still see smaller paychecks and few flying opportunities as Delta seeks to spread the work load around. But I would take a smaller paycheck over no paycheck any day of the week.

    While many people are focusing on other unions like the AFA, I think a comparison contrast can be drawn within Delta airlines. Delta is not 100% nonunion even though Delta has avoided flight attendant furloughs, there is still over 1,900 Delta pilots who without an additional cares act will be furloughed on October 1st. What this demonstrates is how much additional freedom an airline has when there is no union to negotiate with. Delta did tell the pilots if they took a pay cut like everyone other Delta employee then Delta would agree to no furloughs for one year. Delta wanted to reduce the guaranteed minimum hours the contract requires the airline to pay pilots and who know what other work rule changes Delta wanted to in an attempt to save money but the pilots were having none of it.

    While many posters on this thread would try to have everyone believe Delta is a open and honest airline there are numerous articles dating back to April documenting every time Delta attempted to violate their own contract with their pilots. There are several articles where Delta pilots used the word demanding and threatening to describe John Laughter the senior VP of flight operations interactions with them.

    Although Delta may not have threaten their FA’s to achieve the results Delta wanted, there is evidence that Delta did threaten their pilots. The difference is here Delta is free to implement any changes they want as it pertains to their flight attendants, whereas they have to abide by the contract with their pilots. The truth is there was no need for Delta to threaten their flight attendants to gain compliance because either way (whether voluntary or involuntary) Delta was going to achieve the cost savings necessary because there is no contract tying Delta’s hands.

    On the flip side like Delta pilots both AA and UA are forced to layoff thousands of flight attendants because the airlines hands are tied by a contract. And like Delta’s pilots union the unions at both AA and UA refused most of the companies proposals that could have avoided layoffs.

  23. Anonymous,
    NO ONE was “spooked” into taking the package Delta offered. I had 41 years with the company, and for me, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse…it was an awesome package. Everyone had their reasons for leaving or staying, it was their choice, and no one was forced.

  24. Marcel that is exactly correct! We have never needed a union to speak for us. We have always had direct contact with our Management Team.
    #DeltaProud#Union Free

  25. Our hours have been reduced but we r free to pick up hours trips from other flight attendants and open time anytime we want even other bases! Also Delta gives us opportunities to work in other departments within the company a union contract would not alow that

  26. Great article.. Thought I would add that NK has also avoided furloughs for both the FAs and pilots. Both are unionized and those wanting an option can take a 3 month out, 6 month out or a 1 month out ( from flying ) from present through the end of May 2021 . Personally I think that any carrier that can avoid furloughs in times like these is doing something right ; Just sayin..

  27. I think a lot of people are forgetting this crisis is not over on October 1, 2020. What does end is the payroll protection program unless Congress intervenes. Prior to October 1st Delta could not reduce hourly pay so they reduce their flight attendants guaranteed minimum hours and reduced all full time ground employees from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week. The cares act allowed Delta to make these changes. If there is no second CAREs Act and if Delta’s cash burn rate in Q4 is higher than executives expect there is nothing preventing Delta Airlines from implementing any and all changes required to reduce the companies cash daily cash burn.

    October 1st does not represent the end of this crisis, it represents the beginning. On that day every single airline is on there own. There is no government assistance protecting your hourly pay. Delta has already reduce the total number of hours their nonunion employees work. If that action alone isn’t enough, the next thing Delta will come after is your hourly pay, your benefits, changes to health care (open enrollment is just around the corner still plenty of time for Delta to make changes) changes work rules, and more. Neither American or United can make changes to any of those things without negotiating.

    Early in this crisis Delta did say they wanted their cash burn rate to be down to zero by the start of 2021. In Q2 Delta was burning $43 million dollars per day, United was burning $40 million a day. With just one month to go until the end of Q3, we will have to wait and see what Delta’s Q3 burn rate is. For the more than 90% of commenters who are celebrating thinking this crisis is over, I’m afraid you haven’t been paying attention. Instead of celebrating no layoffs you should be asking yourself what happens next if Delta Airlines does not hit its financial goals once the CAREs Act expires? Without a union or the government to protect your pay and benefits Delta Airlines is FREE to do what ever is necessary to insure the long term financial health and stability of the airline.

  28. If a Delta Flight Attendant will have reduced hours (say 50 hours monthly) wouldn’t it be better to be furloughed and collect unemployment with recall rights to come back next year?

  29. DELTA has a schedule value of 71 hrs and you can pic up even out of base, so no, unemployment would be less

  30. I have over 10 years and did not qualify for a retirement package because of my age. The opt out packages were not generous to this group. They should have offered it to anyone with 10 years across the board. The difference in benefits are significant.

  31. Stop the Lies! Delta is the best!
    No one was forced into retirement. The package was amazing.
    No one was forced into another job. All voluntary and minimal.
    No one is forced to fly low hours. Delta F/A’s are at 71 hrs and are picking up trips to 150+.
    Lying is only necessary when you have no valid accusation.
    Delta Proud.

  32. Congrats Delta. Your company has always been transparent. Ours (AA) lies to us and furloughed 8099 FA our unionized group is sad and our FA’s with 40 plus years are greedy! Over 850 50 plus year flight attendants took no leaves and continue to pick up trip in our trade system daily taking hours from future furloughed FA’s. They were offered a great package but refused to take because they are greedy!
    The future of our airline is Grimm! Our leaders specifically the flight service VP (Lyin’ Jill) has not one compassionate bone in her body. At AA we were once great also known as US Airways then came AA and destroyed everything.
    Bankruptcy is well deserved for AA as they are pros at it.
    Delta don’t ever unionize!

  33. Delta Mgt has handled it well. They clearly understand that if you keep the majority of your staff happy, they will not unionize. Employees generally don’t unionize because they want to. Bad, unscrupulous management essentially invites the union in by screwing their workers. Just look at UAL and AA. Years of lies, going back on promises, and abusing the work force while paying millions to managers have kept the two side at war. If AA and UAL management had respect for their staffs it would be a different picture
    at those carriers.

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