Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a company memo to employees on Wednesday the airline is still in need of voluntary furloughs amid rising COVID cases, and as the CDC urges against travel during the holidays.
“Our voluntary unpaid leave program will continue to be essential to positioning Delta for the recovery, and we will need participants for the foreseeable future,” Bastian said in the memo, adding that additional details regarding 2021 leave of absences will be shared with employees soon.
“I ask everyone to consider whether a voluntary leave makes sense for you and your family. Thank you for your continued sacrifice on behalf of our company,” he said.
Bastian said earlier in the memo the airline plans to hire back employees in positions such as reservation sales and customer care full time on Jan. 1.
The news comes following the U.K. government's approval of a coronavirus vaccine, and as the U.S. is expected to follow with the first vaccinations for frontline health workers. Bastian said the airline will also play a role in delivering vaccines domestically and globally.
“Delta is ready to play an active role in effectively and quickly transporting vaccines at home and around the world. To that end, we’ve refined our pharmaceutical delivery protocols to ensure safe and swift distribution of vaccines as they reach final approval,” Bastian said.
News of Bastian's memo comes the same day Delta announced it would continue to waive fees it typically charges passengers who wish to change flights domestically and internationally. The Atlanta-based airline also announced it would be extending an existing waiver that prevents travelers from getting charged $150 fee for domestic flight changes and $200 for international flight changes through March 30, 2021, for travel anywhere. The waiver was set to expire Dec. 31.
United and American airlines waived fees for flight changes domestically in August. And last month, American extended its fee waiving policy to include international flights. United Airlines on Wednesday also said it would extend its ticket-fee waiver to March 31.
“Recognizing that flexibility is more important to our customers than ever, United was the first legacy airline to announce it would permanently eliminate change fees – a policy that included Basic Economy and International tickets booked through the end of this year,” a United spokesperson said. “Today, we’re pleased to announce two important changes to this policy.”
“First, we’re extending this policy to include Basic Economy tickets purchased through March 31, 2021. Second, this policy will also apply to all international tickets purchased in the United States moving forward.”
The extension was announced amid stagnant air travel demand, linked to rising COVID cases and the CDC's recommendations for travelers to stay home for the holidays.
Total passenger demand was down 70.6% in October compared to a year ago, according to the latest statistics from the International Air Transport Association.