Delta pilots to receive over 30% pay raise on new contract

A pilot walks past the windows of the newly renovated Delta Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on March 6, 2021.

Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines and its pilots’ union have reached a tentative agreement for a 30% raise within four years, a milestone that could dramatically boost wages for aviators across the industry.

Pilot unions and airlines across the US have been in intense negotiations for months, if not years, as crews push for better compensation and better schedules.

In October, Delta pilots voted to sanction a strike if a deal is not reached, and this year pilots from several airlines staged a picket demanding better contract terms. Delta and the union were moving closer to a deal in mid-November, according to CNBC.

Unions have complained about grueling schedules as travel has bounced back sharply from the pandemic’s downturn. Delta and other U.S. carriers are profitable again, but a shortage of trained pilots is hindering the recovery of carriers and pushing up airfare. It also gives pilots more leeway in contract negotiations. Labor and fuel are the two main cost items for airlines.

The “fundamental agreement” reached by Delta with the Air Line Pilots Association is $7.2 billion in combined value over four years, the union told members in an email late Friday night. About a quarter of this is due to improved quality of life.

The agreement includes an 18% increase on the day the contract is signed, then a 5% increase a year later, and two 4% increases in each of the following years. It also includes a lump sum payment of 4% of salary for 2020 and 2021 plus 14% of salary for 2022.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement in principle on a new pilot contract that recognizes our pilots’ contributions to Delta’s success,” a Delta spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Attempts to deal with american airlines as well as United Airlines have so far failed, but the Delta deal could jump-start negotiations.

“We will take into account ratified agreements with other carriers, including United, and quickly update our payment offerings as details become known,” American CEO Robert Isom said in a video message to pilots in June.

Delta’s agreement says wage rates will exceed those of United and American by at least 1% for the duration of the agreement, which still requires union and pilot approval.

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