20% of Delta workforce exited last week in 'difficult but necessary step,' CEO says

Airlines are shrinking payrolls amid a layoff ban

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said that 20% of the company's workforce, or approximately 17,000 employees, departed last week after taking early retirement or exit packages.

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"Last week marked a turning point in our response to the global pandemic, as we said farewell to thousands of Delta colleagues," Bastian wrote in a memo on Thursday, calling the workforce reduction "a difficult but necessary step towards Delta’s transformation into a smaller, more nimble airline that will be better positioned to endure the crisis and recover quickly."

The coronavirus pandemic has sent U.S. airlines scrambling to save their bottom lines. Bastian said Delta would avoid layoffs that have plagued other airlines, but like its competitors including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, Delta incentivized its employees to bow out.

An agent works the counter at the Delta Air Lines terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The airlines were able to shrink their payrolls despite being banned from layoffs before Oct. 1 under the terms of an aid package from the federal government. Congress approved $25 billion in payroll assistance to airlines in March and seems poised to extend the program.

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"[W]e continue to plan for a long and somewhat choppy recovery," Bastian also wrote. "While many of the goals of the 2020 Flight Plan we introduced in January are no longer relevant, we will be guided in the second half of the year by our goal to eliminate our daily cash burn while improving customer satisfaction and building loyalty that will serve us when demand recovers."

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
DALDELTA AIR LINES INC.29.82-3.02-9.20%

Delta likely won't recover from the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy for two years, Bastian said in a July statement.

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