ATLANTA — Airlines are preparing for another, possible air travel meltdown this holiday weekend.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, for one, is expecting the most numbers of passengers, yet, since before the pandemic.
But, still, there are not enough pilots to fly all those passengers.
Delta is already asking ticketed passengers to reschedule those holiday weekend flights as soon as possible, pleading with those passengers to postpone their plans and pick travel dates for next week, instead.
“Delta Air Lines needs to schedule our airline more responsibly,” said Delta Captain Jason Ambrosi on Wednesday. “We share our customer's frustration at the operational issues they are experiencing.”
Ambrosi is chair of the Air Line Pilots Association’s Delta Master Executive Committee in Atlanta.
He and ALPA are organizing nearly 1,000 off-duty Delta pilots to picket Delta, at airports across the country, including at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, on Thursday morning, to get contract talks moving.
Delta acknowledges there are too few pilots, at all the airlines, to meet huge, post-pandemic demand for air travel.
“We’ve warned Delta,” Ambrosi told 11Alive. “The continued scheduling of flights relying on pilots to fly these record amounts of overtime is resulting in fatigue issues. Our pilots are making the tough safety call that they do not fly fatigued... The pilots are flying under work rules and pay that were negotiated over six years ago.”
Beginning Friday, Delta will be canceling 100 flights a day, stretching into August– a plan that Delta announced last month.
And now Delta is offering incentives to ticketed passengers not to fly this weekend, but to reschedule their flights for later in the week.
Delta will waive change fees and fare differences for passengers who reschedule the flights that they’ve booked for July 1 through July 4, and instead fly the following week, by Friday, July 8.
The offer is only for those who booked flights prior to June 29 for this weekend.
Ambrosi has been with Delta for 23 years and said he has never seen anything like this– the pilots that Delta does have are being pushed to the limit.
“This is unprecedented,” he said. “We’re at a point now where, in the (pandemic) recovery, Delta is scheduling more flights than we have pilots to fly.... We’ll have flown more overtime periods than in all of 2018 and 2019 combined. And those were our busiest years to date. So that shows how much extra flying our pilots are doing.”
This extra flying is approaching FAA limits meant to protect pilots, passengers and crew from the fatigue that pilots say they are already experiencing.
Delta wrote in an email to 11Alive that the company wants to agree on a new contract with the pilots that offers the best pay and working conditions in the industry. No one is able to say how long it might take to reach an agreement.