Delta Air Lines pilots have agreed to a new contract that will increase wages by 34 percent by 2026 and include improvements to scheduling, retirement and other benefits, raising the bar on ongoing contract negotiations at other large US airlines.
The vote took place in February, and the results were announced on Wednesday, with 78 percent of pilots approving the contract, according to the union that represents them, Delta’s main executive board. The federation said the increases are estimated at more than $7 billion over four years.
The convention’s big increases are a reflection of the pilot shortage in the United States and the strong recovery in demand for air travel. Airlines have been hiring thousands of pilots since bookings began to spike in 2021 after the pandemic caused travel to fly in early 2020. Many airlines offered early retirements and buyout packages to pilots and other employees during the height of the pandemic and before any vaccines became publicly available, Thinking demand will recover slowly. They were left understaffed when business picked up more quickly.
“This industry-leading contract is a direct result of the unity and grit of Delta pilots,” said Capt. Darren Hartmann, president of the union. “Despite a two-year delay in negotiations due to Covid, we have never lost sight of our goal of obtaining significant overall improvements to our pilot employment agreement.”
The company’s 15,000 pilots also overwhelmingly agreed to a separate agreement aimed at protecting the number of high-paying jobs for pilots who fly international flights. That agreement, approved by 90 percent of those who voted, would require Delta to add new international airline locations when it sells more flights operated by foreign airlines with which it has partnerships.
Labor organization and trade unions
“From the beginning of the negotiation process, we set out to offer the best pilots in the industry the best pilot contract in the industry, a contract that makes us the number one destination for aviation careers in the United States, and this contract is a reflection of that unwavering commitment,” said John Laughter, Delta’s president of operations, in a statement. statement.
The airline said it also plans to increase wages for several other workers starting in April. Unlike its peers, Delta’s workforce, including flight attendants and baggage handlers, isn’t for the most part unionized.
The new contract is widely expected to affect trial negotiations at American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. All of these companies are grappling with difficult conversations and demands for much higher wages and other changes from union leaders and their members.
In the fall, the United Flyers voted on a proposed contract. Union leaders in the American Pilots Association refused to send a tentative agreement to a membership vote.
American said on Wednesday that Delta’s new contract could put more pressure on other airlines to offer better terms to pilots.
“The Delta Pilot Agreement dramatically changes the economics of the entire industry,” American said in a statement. “Our commitment to paying our team members well and competitively has not changed.”
The union at Southwest plans to require its members to vote in May to allow the strike if the group does not reach a contract with the company; Contract negotiations have been underway for three years. Under federal law, pilots can only strike after several conditions are met.
“It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly, but given the trajectory of our current leadership group, we have little confidence in the stability and future of our airline,” said Captain Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Airline Association. in a statement last month.
Captain Murray and other union leaders have criticized Southwest management after the collapse of the company’s operations, which disrupted the travel plans of about two million people at the end of last year. The airline said it was overwhelmed by bad weather and other challenges, but the Department of Transportation is investigating whether Southwest deliberately sold more flights than it could handle.
In addition to the increases, Delta’s new contract includes benefit improvements such as vacation entitlement, daily subsistence allowance payments while traveling, scheduling and retirement contributions.
About 96 percent of eligible Delta pilots cast their ballots. The contract takes effect Thursday and runs through 2026.
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