The Actual Likelihood Of Furloughs

Hello, so Delta sent out over 2500 furlough notices, UAL notices are upcoming, and AAL is over 1300 pilots fat. It seems like furloughs are a common solution for airlines whenever there’s a downturn, but I was wondering just how likely it is for a pilot to experience such an occurrence. There’s thousands of pilots in the US, and it seems that 10-20% about how much they furloughed in the previous downturns. 2558, for example, takes Delta to Dec. 2016. DAL, if I recall, didn’t furlough in 2008 while AMR and UAL did. Is the amount of pilots who don’t experience furloughs low or high? So is it simply a right of passage, or a horrific but rare event? Is it something to simply expect or something to prepare for but not really something that happens to most pilots?

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If you can figure out the answer to that question you’re smarter than any pilot I know and you should open a consulting firm. I know many pilots who have been furloughed and many who have not. There’s simply no formula to predict with any accuracy the odds whatsoever, there’s just too many variables. When I was at ExpressJet I missed being furloughed by a few years and hopefully that’ll be the same for me now. Thing is that really is just a factor of dumb luck and nothing more. I flew with an FO a few years back who started flying 10 years before I did but was furloughed 4 times in his career.

To answer your question I believe the total number of pilots who’ve been furloughed percentage wise is relatively low but there are zero guarantees it won’t happen. Just have to hope for the best. If/when it does, the pilots who live within their means generally fair well. I’m a union rep, speak with all our pilots and all are concerned. It’s the ones who just bought the new Tesla, the new boat, the new house with a $5,000mos mortgage who are freaking.




I don’t have all the answers to your questions. I don’t know the likelihood of being furloughed, but it is something to seriously consider. This conversation is another good reason why we stress the importance of having a backup plan.

Most would agree that saving 3-6 months of your monthly expenses is considered a good amount for emergencies. As a pilot, a year’s worth, minimum, of expenses is what I would recommend. Not only do pilots have to save for unforeseen expenses, they have to save for the risk of potentially losing their job. What other professions can you think of that have to plan for furlough? If more professions did, the 3-6 months golden rule would be much higher.



I Finished all my ratings with ATP in 2017. I was furloughed in 2018 and again in 2020. Keep money in the bank, don’t live outside your means and it will be more of an inconvenience than a catastrophe. Your mileage may vary.