Large section of Delta Air employees go on unpaid leave

Delta Air USA

Thousands of Delta Air Lines employees have volunteered for unpaid time off as the carrier tries to save costs, even as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the world. Some 35,000 workers have signed up for unpaid leaves of absence that the Atlanta-based carrier started offering last month, CEO Ed Bastian said.

That amounts to more than a third of the roughly 91,000 full-time employees Delta had at the end of last year, according to its latest annual report.

Delta is seeking even more volunteers and bolstering benefits given to workers while they’re gone, Bastian said. He said last week that the company was offering longer-term absences of six, nine and 12 months.

Delta first gave the option of unpaid leave in mid-March as it imposed a hiring freeze and slashed its flight capacity in response to the coronavirus crisis. The pandemic has led to global travel restrictions and depressed demand for flights.

Delta rivals American Airlines and United Airlines have also offered voluntary leave to their workers as the virus slammed their businesses.Top executives at the three major US carriers have cut their own pay while seeking sacrifices from front-line workers. Bastian said in March that he would forgo his salary for six months. United CEO Oscar Munoz is also giving up his base salary while American president Robert Isom is cutting his pay by 55%.