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  • September 15, 2020
More than 40,000 Delta employees have volunteered to take short-term or long-term unpaid leaves.
Credit…Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Delta Air Lines has avoided the need to furlough much of its work force in the coming weeks, sparing many employees the fate faced by tens of thousands at other airlines.

The airline’s chief executive, Ed Bastian, made the announcement in a letter to staff members on Tuesday, crediting a range of concessions by Delta employees.

“We had an enormous response to the enhanced early retirement and departure packages that were offered this summer, with 20 percent of our people choosing voluntary exits,” he said. “While it is difficult to see so many of our colleagues leave, every one of those departures helped save Delta jobs.”

More than 40,000 Delta employees volunteered to take short-term or long-term unpaid leaves. The airline also cut hours by 25 percent for many workers.

While Delta’s flight attendants and those who work in customer service, cargo, reservations, airplane maintenance and other areas will be spared, the airline said it would still need to furlough about 2,000 pilots, as previously announced. Delta’s pilots are unionized, while there is a campaign underway to unionize its flight attendants.

American Airlines expects to furlough 19,000 workers starting on Oct. 1, when a ban on broad cuts that was a condition of federal aid expires. United Airlines has said it plans to furlough 16,000. Like Delta, Southwest Airlines has said it will be able to avoid such cuts.

American, United and Delta have said that many jobs under threat could be spared if Congress renews the funding provided under the CARES Act, which passed in March and included $25 billion for passenger airlines to pay employees.

Lawmakers in both parties have expressed support for such funding, but broader talks have been stalled for weeks.

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