As Delta Air Lines and its pilots battle over impending furloughs an unlikely candidate for collateral damage is emerging. The carrier may be forced to ground some of its A220-100 fleet as it comes up short on First Officers to operate the type. The company notified 1,941 pilots last Friday of potential layoffs on 1 October.
In a letter to pilots earlier this week Delta Master Executive Council Chairman Captain Ryan Schnitzler states, “that, come October, Delta will have fewer than 50 First Officers on the A220 fleet forcing the Company to unnecessarily park over half the fleet.”
Delta’s planned A220 schedule cuts
A review of published schedule data suggests the impending A220 service cut is likely accurate. For a mid-September Monday the company has 2,963 flights scheduled, including 95 on the A220-100. Just three weeks later in October a Monday has 3,176 flights currently on the schedule but only 57 on the A220s. That’s a 40% reduction in A220 departures against a 7% growth in total flights.
Only the 717s and A319s show a similar decrease, and the A319s are offset by A320s increasing such that the common type-rated pilots across the A320 family see departures remain relatively static.
And Delta has, to date, kept its A220s flying, even as other types were grounded. To be cutting the A220 operations and not trimming other planes from the schedule is a very, very uncommon move.
On a global scale Delta’s move to scale back the A220 operations also appears an anomaly. Other operators of the type are increasing its frequencies. And for good reason. It is a very efficient, very capable aircraft for the 110-150 passenger segment.
Excluding Delta’s cuts the A220-100 is expected to increase from 31 to 41 departures on the same dates, while the A220-300 family is scheduled to increase from 218 to 339.
Earlier this year The Air Current noted that the A220s were among the aircraft most likely to remain on the schedule for airlines. Air Baltic is accelerating its fleet transition to operate only the A220s.
A Force Majure challenge
The MEC also notes that Delta “will attempt to claim force majeure to avoid paying furloughed pilots their full benefits.” The MEC estimates this move will save less than $1 million in total costs for the airline. Rather than the cash saved on these furlough moves, the MEC posits that “management is trying to build a future case based on force majeure to circumvent contractual scope obligations furthering its effort to offshore pilot jobs to cheaper foreign carriers.”
The MEC has been vocal in the past as Delta pursued joint venture agreements. While the MEC has not outright opposed those deals, it did use DOT filings to call attention to the risk of US pilot jobs being outsourced.
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