Delta Asked Pilots, Other Employees To Volunteer Cleaning Airport Lounges

Delta has serious staff shortages. Telephone calls from their best customers are taking up to 41 hours to answer. Now it seems they can’t get anyone to clean their lounges, so they asked various work groups, including pilots, to volunteer as cleaners in Atlanta their Sky Club lounges in Atlanta.

While the airline is mostly non-union, it surprised me to see the call go out and include Delta’s unionized pilots.

It turns out, according to airline spokesperson Drake Castaneda, that this happened by mistake and “was corrected, as this was meant for salaried employees and not frontline employees as well.” He expanded,

Just as we’ve done for years with Peach Corps employee volunteers during our busiest travel seasons, we have asked Atlanta-based, salaried employees to volunteer in our Atlanta Delta Sky Clubs to help meet the rapid, recent increases in customer volumes and ensure that our teams continuously deliver the elevated Club experiences our customers have come to expect.

No matter where a Delta employee works – whether in the operation or at headquarters – one thing consistent among all Delta people is their willingness to lend a hand. It is part of Delta’s culture and is the Delta Difference.

The U.S. faces reported unemployment of around 6%, yet job growth last month was anemic. Unemployment pays more than during normal times. For families with children whose schools have been closed for in-person learning, taking a job means paying for child care. That has made matching unemployed workers with jobs difficult.

And while $79 billion in U.S. federal government support for the airlines was supposed to ‘keep them ready for when passengers want to fly’ it didn’t actually do this. Pilots didn’t keep current with takeoffs and landings, and airlines cut costs wherever possible, whether shedding staff through nominally voluntary buyouts or by cutting off contractors. And since Sky Club cleaners work airside, that means more vetting and time to gain badge access.

Delta Sky Club Austin

While it’s possible at some level for employers to pay more to attract employees, wages are sticky downward, and employers reluctant to pay more now and lock in higher wages – against temporary constraints that should resolve themselves by fall. And that’s even if they could afford to do so with modest margins or big losses.

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. Lol that seems a bit ridiculous. You’d think they’d be able to offer at least something if they’re going to be cleaning the lounge. I’ve always loved Delta, but c’mon – get it together

  2. Not to mention the complimentary sparkling lounge in several lounges has been downgraded to $3-$5 per bottle Duc de Valmer, which isn’t even made from the champagne method. They went from a legitimate French sparkling wine from the champagne method, one that was sold in wine shops and appeared on restaurant menus, to something worse than Andre. Now, they don’t have staff to clean toilets and wipe tables. Someone should call the health department inspectors.

  3. I assume “volunteer” in this case means they are volunteering to pick up extra paid hours. They can’t honestly be asking their employees to work for free in the lounge.

  4. @Alan if this is meant only for *salaried* employees, I’m assuming they aren’t receiving any extra (cash) compensation for this volunteer work.

  5. I can see Delta gate agent and flight attendant “volunteers” not being too enthusiastic about wanting to clean up the lounge. It would be easier (and more natural?) for them to yell at lounge patrons to clean up after themselves by threatening to delay/block them from boarding as they try to leave the lounge, lol.

  6. @Bastian. What a chump. We make on call FA’s skip meals and clean the toilets in our lounges.

  7. Georgia Dept. of Labor, like many other states, is winding down their extended unemployment benefits which will help get people back to work.
    Delta is dealing w/ the same issues many other companies are facing around the nation. Among airlines, Delta was more aggressive in encouraging its employees to take leaves of absence and now struggles to get them to come back.

  8. Let Bastian and his crew making millions clean Sky Clubs for free or is it below their dignity.


  9. Delta Airlines is concerned about every customer receiving stellar hospitality when visiting a Delta SkyClub. After all, gracious service is why many people prefer to fly with Delta Airlines.

    Delta Airlines is not asking the SkyClub bartender to fill in for a short-staffed flight crew. Furthermore, I would never expect to see a sign posted in the Delta SkyClub that says, “Your mother doesn’t work here. Please clean up your mess.”

  10. I highly suggest management get out of their offices, get some much needed exercise and sweep, wipe, scrub, straighten buff wax all areas of said lounges, thank you.

  11. C’mon man. Delta management doesn’t have time to run an airline. They’ve got more important things to do like corporate activism and virtue signaling. Screw the lounges and pilot shortages. We have a baseball game to move.

  12. It’s going to be a long summer in the hospitality industry. I’m expecting poor service and periodic reductions in service. I’m hoping nothing really bad happens: like a hotel cancelling my reservation because there’s no one to clean my room. At least the airlines themselves have employees, thanks to the Federal government’s largesse. At least there they “fixed” the problem they helped create.

  13. Delta just won the JD Powers airline award for 2020; obviously the recovery didn’t start in 2020 but it is notable that they dethroned Alaska and Southwest.
    American ended up on the bottom.

  14. Years ago a call went out for volunteers to assist with the winter storm that made a baggage mess. I answered the call for help but I was compensated. Delta employees just do the right thing day after day. This spirit is not common with any other airline group.

  15. Delta could solve this easily and quickly … 10K SkyMiles plus a free donut to every pax who spends an hour tidying up the place. I always picture the scene at HQ when something like this gets out in public and makes fools of middle management. I’ve been a United/Continental flyer forever out of SFO. A few interactions with Delta over the past years have been extremely positive. Little things like being able to register for a call back at a certain time, a very thoughtful idea that makes me think Delta deserves its rep for excellent customer service.

  16. Actually the letter was meant to be sent to Delta Medallion customers and any Sky Peso members willing to donate time or a donation to the Delta Airlines Go Fund me page
    They are after all a non profit organization with executives donating their time

  17. @ huey judy

    I think discerning Delta Airlines elite Medallion members will be happy to wake up an hour earlier, drive to the airport and donate this hour before the flight to help clean up discarded SkyClub trash. 10K SkyMiles plus a free donut will make any Delta Diamond Medallion member grateful they are flying with this world-class airline. SkyTeam® Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus members can hopefully receive the same offer. If I volunteer to do this, in addition to valuable SkyMiles, I hope to get a scrumptious Delta donut with *sprinkles.*

  18. Shame on Delta for asking their employees to “volunteer” without pay and make it look like e nice gesture. Ed Bastian and your Executives that collect millions in Bonuses can do that. Set a good example. Hey, if Bill Clinton carved Thanksgiving Dinner for his staff and served it at the White House. Why can’t YOU go volunteer?

  19. I couldn’t agree more, Gael. How these so-called ‘managers’ can look in the mirror every morning is beyond me. They’re just pathetic. But no doubt the rank & file will step up to fix the situation … they at least take pride in their jobs and their airline. I have a $550 credit at Delta and can hardly wait to try to book it online which won’t work, and try to call them to book it, which won’t work either. I suspect an attorney would be pleased to file a lawsuit against the dopes who run Delta.

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