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As demand for air travel returns, Delta plans to hire 3,000 flight attendants

The number of flights in June reached 83% of pre-pandemic levels and was more than double the number of flights in June 2020.

Delta Air Lines, the largest carrier at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, is hoping to hire 3,000 flight attendants by the summer of 2022. 

The airline shared its hiring plans Tuesday, saying it's working on adding an additional 1,500 flight attendants to the sky by next summer. That's in addition to another 1,500 workers that made it through the hiring process (they were already in training or had a conditional job offer) before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. 

The Atlanta-based airline — and other major U.S. carriers — began accelerating hiring in various departments earlier this summer as people resumed traveling after more than a year at home. 

In June, Delta said it was working on hiring:

  • Hundreds of reservations and customer care workers to bring the total to 1,300 workers this summer (staffing was down 50% due to the pandemic) 
  • 2,000 new airport customer service and cargo workers, in addition to the 1,200 hires that were already in the recruitment pipeline
  • More than 1,000 pilots before summer 2022
  • 1,000 new mechanics and technicians by the end of 2021

“Our outstanding colleagues have worked so hard over the last year to ensure not only Delta’s survival but our long-term success,” Joanne Smith, Delta’s E.V.P. and Chief People Officer, said in a June news release. “As we shift gears toward recovery, we know we need reinforcements to help us serve our customers this summer."

The travel industry recovered faster than many airlines expected, which had them scrambling to fill positions that had been cut to save money when demand for travel plummeted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

U.S. airlines had 394,298 full-time employees in June 2021 (the most recent data available), which is an increase of 1,300 workers or 0.3% compared to the month prior, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. However, the number of full-time employees is still down by 62,962 workers (13.8%) compared to March 2020, which marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. 

Delta had 61,045 full-time employees in June 2021, up from a pandemic low of 47,581 full-time employees in April 2020. In February 2020, Delta had 81,177 full-time employees, data show.

The labor crunch, which many industries have experienced in recent months, led to customer service issues, canceled flights, trimmed schedules, and delayed flights this summer. 

DOT said 1.6% of scheduled domestic flights ended up being canceled in June 2021 (the latest data available), up from 0.5% in May 2021 and 0.4% in June 2020.

However, airlines did operate more flights and carried more passengers in June 2021 than at any other time during the pandemic, DOT said earlier this month

Airlines carried 66.4 million passengers in June 2021, a 304% increase from June 2020 when they carried 16.4 million passengers, DOT said. But that's still down about 21% compared to June 2019, before the pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the number of flights in June increased, reaching 83% of pre-pandemic levels (564,583 flights) and was more than double the number of flights in June 2020 (236,234). In June 2019 airlines operated 679,802 flights.

July airline data is set to be released in mid-September. 

Delta's career website is here

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