Delta employees: Give airlines grants, loans and tax relief

The Detroit News

Airlines are the engine of the American economy. This fundamental industry is the core of connecting businesses, people and the world. We bring families together for special occasions or unforeseen life events, reunite our veterans with their loved ones, send couples off on their first voyage as newlyweds and young scholars to college. We also provide millions of global citizens access to critical goods — including medical equipment and organs for life-saving surgeries.

And we should know. We are a few of the 750,000 people worldwide who make that engine turn.

We are proud to work for this industry, which pays wages 45% higher than the national private sector average and counts a vast array of professionals such as ramp and cargo workers, flight attendants, pilots, mechanics, reservation agents, customer service managers and many more. Our company, Delta Air Lines, consistently makes “Best Places to Work” lists, because of our unique people-first culture, which includes leading total compensation, strong employee involvement, commitment to diversity, dedication to our communities and progress in sustainability. In fact in the last five years, Delta increased base pay an average of 30% and paid more than $6 billion in profit sharing to its people, while giving 1% of our net profits to communities where we live and work. 

But all this could be at stake now.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government’s de facto ban on flying, social distancing guidelines, Level 4 travel advisory for all international travel, and now fear of flying, the very survival of our industry and livelihoods are at risk.

An airline industry weakened by Covid-19 would complicate business, make travel difficult and make everyday items like diapers and food scarce or too expensive for many, say Delta employees.

As a unified nation, we must decide to save our airline industry, otherwise, we will soon have no U.S. airlines to rely on for our jobs, our economy or even our national security. Beyond the 750,000 people worldwide directly employed by the airlines, our industry drives more than 10 million American jobs for our friends, families, communities and loved ones. Without immediate and depoliticized support for airlines, these jobs could disappear forever in turn having an astounding ripple effect.

In order to immediately mitigate this crisis, we are calling on Congress to pass legislation specifically for the airline industry. This would include three concrete and short-term fixes: grants, loans and tax relief.

Each of these fixes aims to provide emergency liquidity to an industry that has been forced to all but halt activity. Cancellations are spiking, outnumbering new reservations. As these increase daily, so does the number of employees like us who are left without jobs. This is a stark contrast to the robust, healthy industry we all knew just weeks ago. 

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, airlines conducted 28,000 daily domestic flights, driving $1.7 trillion in American economic activity. With a weakened airline industry, businesses large and small will be unable to operate, families will be unable to travel, and everyday items like diapers and food will become scarce or too expensive for many. Without assistance, we are terrified and certain the impacts of this crisis will only get worse.

And if our jobs and the essential business we facilitate aren’t enough to convince policymakers of the importance of industry support, they should also consider our contributions to national security.

U.S. airlines play a critical role in aiding our national defense as a component of our national strategic lift through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program. Many of us have flown these missions. On the air and on the ground, we help protect critical infrastructure and data from our enemies who would attack us. But without a gainfully employed domestic airline industry, our national defense and ability to respond to emergency situations in the U.S. and globally would be significantly weakened. 

If we allow the airlines to fail now, we risk national security, access to basic goods, and the ability to connect our planet. And for us at Delta, we risk the loss of our livelihoods and the communities we generously serve.  

Beyond our jobs, a failure of the airline industry risks erasing all of the employment gains we have made in the past eight years and forcing millions of mothers, fathers, veterans and neighbors into unemployment and even poverty. This is why we must support the airlines. We’re ready for take-off, but in this crisis we need our elected officials to come together to support aviation workers.

We are employees of Delta Air Lines:

Austin, “AJ” Johnson, Delta Airport Customer Service & Cargo Ops, GSE

Michael Fernandez, Delta Flight Attendant

Taylor Collins, Delta Reservations, Customer Care & Digital

Dan Leskusky, Delta Merit and Administrative 

Scott Bell, Delta TechOps