Sometimes silence can speak volumes.
That was more true than ever Thursday at the Salt Lake City International Airport, where Delta Air Lines pilots came together in silent solidarity, holding signs to protest the airline giant's scheduling practices that they say have caused pilots to fly long days and nights or work additional days to keep the airline in operation.
at @slcairport where Delta pilots are protesting the companies scheduling practices that they say have caused pilots to fly long days or work additional days to keep the airline in operation. pic.twitter.com/8GtkLrNP9k— Logan Stefanich (@loganstefanich) April 7, 2022
"We're out here today to send a message to Delta management: Our pilots are tired, they're fatigued," said Evan Baach, a Delta pilot. "The company is not staffing the airline appropriately with pilots; they're staffing more flights with fewer pilots."
Baach said this staffing practice has many pilots concerned that there isn't enough "wiggle room" in the system to account for a bad weather day or other operational issues that can cause flight delays or cancellations.
During Thursday's picketing at the Salt Lake City International Airport, over 50 pilots congregated outside of the Terminal 1 departure area holding signs that read, "If I look tired, it's because I am," and "Fatiguing schedules = poor reliability."
Last December's period of bustling holiday travel that stretched into early January led to a combination of factors that caused thousands of flight cancellations for Delta and other carriers. Among those factors were short-staffing, winter storms and a surge in COVID-19 cases that meant more pilots were out sick.
"We've flown record amounts of overtime during the pandemic to help Delta operate its schedule and get our passengers safely to their destinations. In many cases, pilots are flying long after their day or trip was supposed to end. Delta cannot continue to operate the schedule at redline with no room for error," said Jason Ambrosi, chairman of the Delta Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association.
The Delta pilots are currently in negotiations with management for a new contract. These talks resumed in January after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The Air Line Pilots Association is proposing solutions to scheduling issues as part of these negotiations, but is also asking management to address fatiguing schedules now.
"Delta has acknowledged our issue and we want them to work with us and find commonsense solutions now," Baach said. "We want them to match their words with their actions."
Delta was asked for a comment but has yet to respond.
Baach said that the pilots union wants Delta to match the level of flying that the airline schedules with the number of pilots available to work.
"Our pilots are actually out here today on their off-day," Baach said. "This is an issue that they care about so greatly that they're taking time away from home (and) away from family to come out here and make their voice known to Delta management."
Salt Lake City is one of the main hubs for Delta, which is headquartered in Atlanta.
In March, Delta pilots picketed at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta outside the Delta check-in lobby to raise public awareness of the staffing issue. Additional picketing is planned at airports in Detroit, Seattle and Minneapolis later in April.
Delta's 13,500 pilots are represented by Air Line Pilots Association. Founded in 1931, Air Line Pilots Association is the world's largest pilot union, representing more than 62,000 pilots at 38 airlines in the United States and Canada.