Terror hits home as Delta announces layoffs
By JOHN THOMPSON
The battle against terrorism hit home Wednesday as Delta Air Lines announced that more than 13,000 positions have to be cut by the end of the year.
Delta CEO Leo Mullins said the layoffs will cut 16 percent from the company's work force, which nearly matches the company's cutting of 15 percent of its routes.
Locally, Mullin predicted that about 16 percent, or just over 2,000 jobs, would be eliminated in Atlanta.
He said the recently passed federal bailout program of $15 billion will help the airlines in the short term, but ultimately the airlines will have to get the passengers' confidence back before the industry achieves solid financial footing.
Delta will first ask for voluntary leave from its employees, and then reevaluate the situation Nov. 1 to determine how many involuntary cuts the company will have to make.
"We can't take any chances on the survival of Delta," he said.
All of the cuts are supposed to be completed by Dec. 31, Mullin said, and the employees who are separated will have a chance to rejoin the airline at a later date if the fiscal situation improves.
Mullin said the cuts in jobs will go across the board from pilots to customer service representatives.
In response to a question about the pilots' new contract that does not allow furloughs, Mullin said there is a contingency in the contract that allows furloughs in extraordinary circumstances.
Employees who lose their jobs will receive a generous severance package, and Mullin said this is the company's last resort and he does not relish the task.
"Delta's people are Delta Air Lines," he said.
Mullins also said he favors looking at the issue of arming pilots for extra security, and said the company will announce a program in the next few days to encourage people to fly to New York City.
Mullins was encouraged by Sunday's activity, which saw more than 200,000 fly Delta. Normally, 300,000 people a day fly on the airline.
The CEO did say the airline plans to cut nearly 50 percent of its routes at New York's JFK Airport, and would announce other routes at a later date.
Locally, many Delta employees call the south side home, and the Fayette Chamber of Commerce established Team Fayette to help residents deal with the layoffs.
The chamber has established a hotline at 770-461-9983 for residents to obtain information on everything ranging from state programs to child care and consumer credit assistance.