MIAMI – Delta Air Lines (DL) will return 400 Pilots to full flying status by this summer. The company is betting that the expansion of coronavirus vaccinations will trigger a rebound in travel demand. The information comes from a report in the American Journal of Transportation (AJOT).

The plan is “well ahead” of when the company originally estimated it would restore Pilots to full active status, John Laughter, DL senior vice president of operations, said in a Jan. 21 memo. The decision is based in part on available training capacity in March and April. It is also facilitated by Delta’s US$2.9bn share of the second round of federal payroll aid for US carriers.

The improved outlook builds on DL’s expectation that it will end daily cash losses in the second quarter and potentially turn a profit in the third. The airline expects to burn as much as US$15m a day in Q1, according to the AJOT.

Photo: Mateo Skinner/Airways

Rising Optimism

“We’re cautiously optimistic that demand will increase as vaccinations roll out across the world, and we look forward to restoring all affected pilots back to full flying status as the recovery continues,” Laughter said.

According to the report, DL has declined to comment about future flight capacity or schedule planning. In November, Delta’s pilots approved an agreement that protected them from furloughs this year. In return, each pilot accepted a 2% reduction in average flying time. the airline had warned that it would furlough 1,713 if a cost-cutting plan wasn’t in place.

“We are encouraged that Delta has begun recalling pilots sidelined by the pandemic,” said Chris Riggins, spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association’s unit at Delta. “ALPA has partnered with Delta numerous times over the past year, making mutually beneficial adjustments to our pilot working agreement to weather this pandemic’s extreme challenges. We look forward to continuing to do so as our airline recovers.”

Photo: Andrew Henderson/Airways

Others Also Recalling

PSA Airlines Inc., a regional affiliate of American Airlines Group Inc., plans to hire Pilots for classes starting in February and is adding flight attendants after a nine-month pause.

With the second infusion of federal aid, American Airlines (AA) and United Airlines (UA) will also recall their laid off employees. DL didn’t furlough any workers because enough of them either voluntarily left the company or took leave programs.

The DL Pilot recall decision was reported earlier by CNBC.

Featured image: Mateo Skinner/Airways