SUMMARY:Delta Air Lines released a memo to all pilots announcing big changes in preparation for the Summer 2022 flying schedule.
The April Advance Entitlement bid is set up to “balance staffing between Captain and First Officer positions” posting 1,036 Captain positions and 577 FO positions.
One year ago Ed Bastion, CEO of Delta was quoted saying “the speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we’ve seen. We’re currently seeing more cancellations than new bookings over the next month.” Delta was implementing plans to ground hundreds of aircraft while accelerating fleet retirements. Bastian was also quoted saying “we’re going to be smaller coming out of this. Certainly quite a bit smaller than when we went into it.”
Recall, back in June 2020, Delta published a displacement bid affecting 7,096 pilots followed shortly by LOA 20-02 asking for voluntary retirements while warning that 2,558 pilots could be forced into furlough.
June was full of uncertainty for those on Delta’s seniority list, 16% (over 2,300) pilots found themselves unassigned to fly an aircraft. John Laughter, Delta’s Director of Flight Operations urged participation in the Voluntary Early Out Program (VEOP) while warning it simply wouldn’t be enough, “early retirements alone likely won’t be enough to avoid pilot furloughs altogether.”
Prior to the pandemic reductions, Delta employed 14,657 pilots. The April bid will close with a projected seniority list about 75% smaller than their 2020 peak, with a target staffing level of about 11,100 pilot positions reflecting “coverage for departing pilots anticipated to leave between now and July 2022, reflecting a 17% increase to the projected staffing required for July 2021.”
The bid shows optimism for possible hiring in late 2021 or early 2022 creating 350 unbid positions.
Fleets and bases will continue to see change and contractual obligations will lead to training pain as the airline positions itself for recovery. Pilot training is expected to begin as soon as the May bid period is published.
The multiple fleet types at Delta and contractual obligations will lead to a significant number of costly dual bids (a previous award and another award before the training to the initial award has occurred).
Airbus A350 – Detroit and Los Angeles bases should expect to maintain their size while Atlanta is expected to grow.
Boeing 767-400 – Fleet staffing will decrease in Atlanta and increase the size of the New York base pointing to increases in Trans-Atlantic and domestic flights.
Airbus A330 – New York and Seattle are expected to grow in size, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City are being evaluated but lack “consistent departures” to open. Additional positions on the fleet may be added on future bids.
Boeing 757ER – “The fleet continues to shift to the East Coast.” Seattle will be largely a domestic flying base including Hawaii. New York and Atlanta will grow. Additional positions will become available based on international recovery.
Boeing 737 – New York, Los Angeles and Seattle will see increased activity. Staffing will be adjusted as necessary to bring First Officer “overstaffing” in non-core bases in-line with Captain staffing levels. Full activation of the 737 is expected.
Airbus A320 – 170 Captain positions will be added pointing to fleet growth in Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Detroit and Atlanta. As A321 deliveries continue Seattle can expect increased fleet activity.
Airbus A220 – A Seattle base with 60 crews will be opened. Full activation of the A220 is expected.
Boeing 717 – No changes to the Atlanta and Detroit in fleet deployment, however approximately 30 crew positions will be made available due to block hour increases.
CDC Approves Travel...Sort Of
The CDC updated its website on Friday to reflect the latest scientific evidence, writing that "people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States."
The CDC considers someone fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the last dose of vaccine. Those individuals will no longer need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it, and do not need to self-quarantine upon return.
Speaking at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Friday, nonetheless discouraged all nonessential travel, citing a continued increase in the seven-day average of cases and hospitalizations.
Walensky said on Monday that there is more travel occurring now than throughout the pandemic, including the winter holidays. She acknowledged that people have been looking to get away over spring break or take advantage of what they perceive as a "relative paucity in cases," and she said the country was seeing an uptick in cases as a result.
The CDC is not lifting travel restrictions barring the entry of most non-U.S. citizens from places including China, Brazil, South Africa and parts of Europe. It will continue to require airline passengers entering the U.S. to get a test within three days of their departure and show proof of a negative result before boarding.
Without lifting international travel bans, the U.S. Travel Association estimates that some 1.1 million American jobs will not be restored and billions in spending will be lost by the end of the year.
Spirit Accuses JetBlue and American of Shenanigans | Antitrust or Smart Business?
The Miramar, Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier claims in a filing to the Department of Transportation (DOT) on 1 April that the two airlines are conspiring to reduce competition on routes between the Northeast USA and Florida, as well as between North and South America.
In mid-March, New York-headquartered JetBlue applied to shift a daily seasonal Fort Lauderdale-Quito, Ecuador route to originate at New York’s John F Kennedy International airport. That would give JetBlue two daily flights between those two cities.
Shortly prior to that, American, based in Fort Worth, had filed an application to move all its US-to-Ecuador flights to originate in Miami. American now has departures to Quito and Guayaquil from Dallas and Miami, Spirit says.
In their justifications to the DOT, both airlines said the proposed shifts were “to match current demand for these services”.
This is not the first time Spirit has raised red flags about the JetBlue-American alliance. In January, the carrier joined Southwest Airlines in requesting the DOT take a closer look at the proposed collaboration to ensure there were no anti-competitive measures that should be prohibited.
On the heels of a rocky Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2020, Delta proactively canceled more than 70 flights heading into Easter Sunday, unblocking middle seats to help offset the number of displaced passengers.
In a statement to TPG, Delta attributed the cancellations to staffing hurdles: “Delta teams have been working through various factors, including staffing, large numbers of employee vaccinations and pilots returning to active status. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and the majority have been rebooked for the same travel day.”
Over a million customers have flown on Delta in the past few days — the highest number of passengers since before the pandemic.
Many passengers have booked flights with Delta over other U.S. airlines specifically because of its middle-seat blocking policy. While it’s a tough situation when you’re trying to get passengers from canceled flights rebooked to their destinations quickly and efficiently, unblocking middle seats after booking is a blow to the consumer trust that Delta has built.
This is the third holiday in the past six months where Delta has hit major roadblocks, which has undoubtedly made a dent in the airline’s reputation for reliability. But as the industry as a whole begins its road to recovery from COVID-19, we’ll hopefully see flight operations return to normal and Delta’s streak for no mainline cancelations return.