MIAMI – Delta Air Lines (DL) has faced numerous recent complaints stating that it is punishing Pilots for requesting retraining in company-owned simulators before returning to the air.

As people return to travel after the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are reports that state that some Crew proficiency issues have surfaced.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Pilots in the United States must perform at least three take-offs and three landings per 90 days to be considered “current” and available to operate flights.

However, from March through May, airlines such as DL were forced to cut schedules and sideline their Pilots.

Delta Boeing 757-200 [N546US] | Photo: © Alvin Man (IG: @onemoreweektogo)

Beyond 90 Days Without Flying

The FAA relaxed “recency requirements” during the pandemic to three take-offs and landings per 180-days, meaning that the period now stretches to before the U.S.’s first cases of COVID-19. Now, as of July 31, the rule will go back to 90-days.

“Everybody has a different threshold for safety,” said Tom Kramer, captain representative for Delta ALPA’s New York Base, when interviewed by Forbes.

“At no time in our careers have we gone beyond 90 days without flying. For every flight, we have to sign a document that says we are fit and safe. But people are saying, ‘How can I say I am safe [when] I’ve never done this?’

“Delta told [Pilots] they did not have a choice, if they chose not to go, they would not fly until Delta got them to a simulator. But simulator times are not being scheduled yet.”

Delta Air Lines Airbus A321 [N389DN] | Photo: © Shon Fridman (IG: @sierrafoxtrot.aviation)

Tough on Flight Crew

According to The Air Current, to overcome the lull in flights during the pandemic, during the next 12 months, large carriers the likes of DL may require almost 70% more simulator time than normal, even with 20% fewer pilots.

However, the carrier’s chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association told Forbes that DL had declined simulator training for at least a dozen Pilots after they filed their requests with the airline.

To add insult to injury, some Pilots said that when they expressed concerns about proficiency, they saw their rosters delayed, which implies a delay in their return to duty and a cut to their salaries.

Delta Airlines Airbus A350-900. | Photo: © Vincenzo Pace (IG: @jfkjetsofficial)

Delta Denies Allegations

The Atlanta-based airline has denied any wrongdoing. DL says it is “addressing and satisfying” Pilot’s requests whenever possible within days or, at maximum, a couple of weeks.

In addition, the carrier says that no Pilot has lost pay for requesting simulator training. Meanwhile, rival carriers are confirming that they always handle requests for currency retraining from their flight Crew.

United Airlines (UA) told Forbes that it has “not exercised the exemption [granted by the FAA] for a single Pilot,” dedicating its training center in Denver for the re-qualification of Pilots who lost currency.

On its part, American Airlines (AA) said that it was granting simulator time to “all Pilots requesting simulator training.”

An American Airlines A320 Family full-motion simulator. This is no only the last stop in Pilot training before flying the real aircraft, but the way to keep current. (Credits: Author)

A Reasonable Request to Fly

DL pilots feel like they need simulator training to stay current. The hope is that an arrangement with DL regarding such training will be made soon.

Pilots most certainly feel at home in the air. It is not unreasonable for grounded Pilots to want some practice before returning to the skies after months on land.