Union: 215 Delta pilots agree to retire

Atlanta airport
Delta Air Lines planes line up at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Barry Williams/Getty Images

A small number of Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots - just 215 - have agreed to retire as part of a company incentive program designed to reduce the number of pilots to cut costs, according to a union tally disclosed in a memo to members Thursday.

Of 12,379 pilots at Delta, some 9,400 were eligible to participate.

Pilots with at least 10 years of service as of the end of this year and whose age and years of service added together equal at least 55 could participate by Wednesday's deadline. Those who agreed to retire can revoke their decision if they do so by July 31.

The Atlanta-based company has not said how many pilots it hoped to cut.

Delta spokeswoman Betsy Talton said in an e-mail Thursday that neither the company nor the union has communicated a target for the program.

"We are pleased that those pilots who were interested were able to take advantage of the first voluntary retirement program offered to this workgroup in a number of years," Talton said.

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The union has said Delta management offered the voluntary retirement program to address what the company perceives to be a current pilot staffing overage.

Delta, like other airlines, has cut capacity as the economy has weakened and demand for air travel has declined amid the recession. Delta plans to cut international capacity by 15 percent starting in September.

Participating pilots with less than 20 years of service as of Dec. 31 of this year will receive six months of severance pay based on 75 hours of pay per month. A pilot with 20 years or more of service as of the end of this year will receive nine months of severance pay based on 75 hours pay per month.

Participating pilots who enroll in retiree or COBRA medical, dental and vision benefits will receive 100 percent company-paid coverage for the first three months following their retirement date with follow-on retiree coverage as provided by the union's pilot working agreement.

Other benefits also are available.

The airline has cut other staff through voluntary severance programs.

Delta acquired Northwest Airlines last October to become the world's largest airline operator. Of the 215 pilots who agreed to retire, 201 are pre-merger Northwest pilots and 14 are pre-merger Delta pilots, according to the union.

Meanwhile, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. expects to disclose next week how many of its 35,000 employees accepted an early-out offer. The deadline for employees who expressed interest to revoke their application for severance benefits, including cash and travel benefits, was this week. Southwest spokeswoman Beth Harbin said the carrier expects to announce the results of the offer when it releases second-quarter earnings next Tuesday.