Delta, Northwest Invite Workers Back

Poised to grow after 15 months of cutbacks in bankruptcy, Delta and Northwest airlines are offering jobs to hundreds of furloughed pilots and flight attendants.

Delta Air Lines, the USA's No.3 carrier, announced Thursday that it will recall 1,000 of its 3,800 furloughed flight attendants for job openings in 2007. That's in addition to 300 already recalled.

No.5 Northwest Airlines has offered jobs to more than 400 furloughed pilots to fill 225 pilot openings over the next several months. About 700 Northwest pilots are still on furlough. Not all those offered the chance will return, partly because the jobs pay less now.

Both carriers filed for Chapter11 in September 2005, following US Airways and United Airlines into bankruptcy protection. Both Delta and Northwest shrank their flying capacity after entering bankruptcy protection. As of this month, Delta is flying 12% fewer seats and Northwest is flying about 8% fewer than in September 2005.

But with robust travel demand and new business plans, both carriers foresee at least modest growth.

Delta said that its existing staff of flight attendants was stretched thin last summer as the airline adjusted its offerings. Delta has been shifting many long-range jets from domestic routes to international routes to boost revenue.

Delta has launched more than 50 new international routes this year alone. Next year, it has plans to launch six new international routes from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and New York's John F. Kennedy airports.

International flights require more flight attendants than domestic flights on the same jet.

"We pushed our operation hard," says Delta Senior Vice President Paulette Corbin. "We need to make adjustments."

The tight staffing contributed to flight cancellations last summer, she said.

Atlanta-based Delta has about 11,000 active flight attendants. Those on furlough were laid off as long as five years ago, right after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Both Delta and Northwest are also taking on new planes to replace old ones and handle expansion.

Northwest has 10 Airbus A330s scheduled for delivery before the end of 2007. In 2008, it will begin receiving 18 new Boeing 787s. Delta, meanwhile, has leased 10 used Boeing 757s formerly flown by TWA.

Thursday's recall announcement came as Delta reported a $52 million profit for the quarter ended Sept. 30, vs. a $1.1 billion net loss a year earlier. Excluding a one-time bankruptcy-related accounting gain, Delta posted a $46 million quarterly loss. Operating revenue rose 8.1%.

Both airlines expect to exit bankruptcy protection in 2007.