September 27, 2022

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Delta pilots picket at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday. The pilots are protesting Delta management’s scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to fly long and often fatiguing trips.

Delta pilots sit-in for “reasonable solutions” to employment issues

Delta pilots sit at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Pilots are protesting Delta’s scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to take long and often stressful flights. (Mingchen Lin, Desert News)

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

Salt Lake City – Sometimes silence can say a lot.

That was truer than ever on Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport, as Delta Air Lines pilots gathered together in silent solidarity, carrying signs to protest against the airline giant’s scheduling practices they say have caused pilots to fly long days and nights or work overtime. . days to keep the airline running.

“We are here today to send a message to Delta management: Our pilots are tired, they are exhausted,” said Evan Bach, a Delta pilot. “The airline isn’t adequately staffing the airline; they’re hiring more flights with fewer pilots.”

This staffing practice worries many pilots that there is not “a lot of wiggle room” in the system to account for a bad day in weather or other operational issues that could cause flight delays or cancellations, Bach said.

During the strike Thursday at Salt Lake City International Airport, more than 50 pilots gathered outside the departures area in Terminal 1 holding signs that read “If I look tired, it’s because I am” and “Exhausted schedules = poor reliability.”

The busy holiday travel period last December that extended into early January resulted in a combination of factors causing thousands of cancellations for Delta and other airlines. These factors include understaffing, winter storms, and an increase in COVID-19 cases that have led to more pilots getting sick.

“We’ve been moving record amounts of overtime during the pandemic to help Delta run its schedule and get our passengers safely to their destinations. In many cases, pilots fly long after their day or flight is over. Delta can’t keep working,” Jason Ambrose said, Chairman of the Chief Executive Board of Delta Airlines Pilots Association.

Delta pilots are currently in negotiations with management for a new contract. Those talks resumed in January after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Airline Pilots Association is proposing solutions to scheduling issues as part of these negotiations, but is also asking management to address the now-overburdened schedules.

Delta pilots sit at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday.  Pilots are protesting Delta's scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to take long and often stressful flights.
Delta pilots sit at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Pilots are protesting Delta’s scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to take long and often stressful flights. (Photo: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

“Delta has recognized our case and we want them to work with us and find solutions that make sense now,” Bach said. “We want them to match their words with their actions.”

KSL.com contacted Delta for comment but did not receive an immediate response.

Bach said the pilots’ union wants Delta to match the airline’s flying standard with the number of pilots available to work.

“Our pilots are here today on their free day,” Bach said. “This is an issue they care about so much that they take time away from home (and) away from family to get out here and make their voice known to the Delta Department.”

Delta pilots sit at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday.  Pilots are protesting Delta's scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to take long and often stressful flights.
Delta pilots sit at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Pilots are protesting Delta’s scheduling practices, which they say have caused pilots to take long and often stressful flights. (Photo: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)

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

In March, Delta Pilots Sit-in at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport In Atlanta outside the Delta check-in lobby to raise public awareness of the employment issue. Additional sit-ins are planned at airports in Detroit, Seattle and Minneapolis later in April.

The 13,500 pilots in Delta are represented by the Airline Pilots Association. Founded in 1931, the Airline Pilots Association is the world’s largest pilot association, representing more than 62,000 pilots for 38 airlines in the United States and Canada.

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Logan Stefanis is a reporter at KSL.com, covering Southern Utah communities, education, business and military news.

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