Delta increases employee salaries by 4% for the first time since the pandemic

Flight attendants serve drinks to a crowded Delta Airlines flight from Ronald Reagan National Airport to Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

On Thursday, Delta Air Lines said it would give most of its 75,000 employees a 4% pay raise, their first since the fall of 2019, before the pandemic.

Airlines have been among the hardest hit during Covid as demand for travel dried up, causing record losses for all major carriers. But bookings are on the rise again, especially for domestic recreation.

Now, carriers are scrambling to hire and train staff to keep up with the growing demand for travel. Airlines such as Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have raised minimum wages or offered hiring bonuses to attract workers in a tough job market and high inflation.

A Delta spokesperson said the increase is part of a regular base pay raise the company offered to employees before Covid hit.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the airline still expects a total loss in the first quarter due to Omicron’s impact on staffing and travel earlier this year. The company expects earnings for March.

“We have come a long way since the darkest days of 2020,” Bastian said in an employee memo announcing the pay increase. He said the airline is “optimistic” that it will be able to turn a profit this year.

The Flight Attendant Association-CWA wrote a letter to members of Delta flight attendants last week saying they have not received a pay raise since 2019. The flight attendant union is in the middle of a Delta membership campaign it launched in November 2019.

Delta’s approximately 20,000 flight attendants are the largest non-union flight attendant of any American airline.

The union said that “virtually one in two flight attendants in the US knows what to expect, as specified in their contract. Instead, we wait and wonder, wish and hope that the leadership, and only the leadership, will one day wake up and decide to give it a raise.”

Delta said in a statement to CNBC that the pay increase is not related to the flight attendants’ union initiative.

“Delta has a strong history of caring for our employees and as the CEO said, this is a well-deserved increase in base pay for our employees who continue to excel in safely caring for our customers, providing us with a travel experience that sets us apart,” said airline representative.

The pay increase does not apply to Delta pilots.

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