Delta Pilots advocate “reasonable solutions” to staffing issues

Delta pilots went on strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Pilots are protesting Delta management’s scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots flying long and often tiring trips. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Sometimes silence can speak volumes.

That was truer than ever on Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport, where Delta Air Lines pilots came together in quiet solidarity, holding signs to protest the airline giant’s scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots being killed flew long days and nights or worked extra days to keep the airline running.

“We’re out here today to send a message to Delta management: our pilots are tired, they’re exhausted,” said Evan Baach, a Delta pilot. “The company does not adequately staff the airline with pilots; they are manning more flights with fewer pilots.”

Baach said this staff practice worries many pilots that the system does not have enough “headroom” to account for a bad weather day or other operational issues that can cause flight delays or cancellations.

During Thursday’s picket line at Salt Lake City International Airport, over 50 pilots gathered outside the departures area of ​​Terminal 1, holding signs reading “If I look tired, it’s because I am” and “Tired schedules = bad.” Reliability”.

Last December’s busy holiday trip, which stretched into early January, resulted in a combination of factors causing thousands of flight cancellations for Delta and other airlines. Those factors included staff shortages, winter storms and an increase in COVID-19 cases, which resulted in more pilots becoming ill.

“We’ve flown record amounts of overtime during the pandemic to help Delta maintain its schedule and get our passengers safely to their destinations. In many cases, pilots continue to fly long after their day or trip should have ended. Delta cannot continue operating on schedule at Redline without room for error,” said Jason Ambrosi, Chair of Delta’s Master Executive Council Association of Air Traffic Controllers.

The Delta pilots are currently negotiating a new contract with management. Those talks resumed in January after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Air Line Pilots Association is proposing solutions to scheduling problems as part of these negotiations, but is also asking management to deal with tedious flight schedules now.

Delta pilots went on strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City.  Pilots are protesting Delta management's scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots flying long and often tiring trips.
Delta pilots went on strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Pilots are protesting Delta management’s scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots flying long and often tiring trips. (Photo: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

“Delta recognized our problem and we want them to work with us and find sensible solutions now,” said Baach. “We want them to put their money where their mouth is.”

KSL.com reached out to Delta for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Baach said the pilots’ union wants Delta to adjust the airline’s planned flight level to the number of pilots available.

“Our pilots are actually out here today on their day off,” said Baach. “This is an issue that is so important to them that they are taking time away from home (and) family to get out here and speak out to Delta management.”

Delta pilots went on strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City.  Pilots are protesting Delta management's scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots flying long and often tiring trips.
Delta pilots went on strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. Pilots are protesting Delta management’s scheduling practices, which they say have resulted in pilots flying long and often tiring trips. (Photo: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

Salt Lake City is one of the key hubs for Delta, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

In March Delta pilots Pickets at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta in front of Delta’s check-in lobby to raise public awareness of the staffing issue. More pickets are planned later in April at airports in Detroit, Seattle and Minneapolis.

Delta’s 13,500 pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association. Founded in 1931, the Air Line Pilots Association is the world’s largest pilots’ union, representing more than 62,000 pilots on 38 airlines in the United States and Canada.

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Logan Stefanich is a reporter for KSL.com covering the communities, education, economy and military of southern Utah.

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