United Airlines offers pilots triple pay to avoid disruption omicron

A United Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft lands at San Francisco International Airport on March 13, 2019 in Burlingame, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

United Airlines is offering its pilots triple travel fares for most of January to alleviate staff shortages caused by the proliferation of the omicron variant of Covid-19.

United, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, SkyWest, Alaska Airlines and other carriers have canceled more than 10,000 combined flights since December 23, citing a combination of bad weather and a surge in sick calls from crews who tested positive for Covid.

Disruptions occur on what airline executives consider to be the busiest days since the pandemic began.

Airlines canceled nearly 1,500 flights to the United States on Friday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. United have canceled over 200 matches, about 11% of their regular schedule.

United and the pilots’ union, the Flight Pilots Association, have reached an agreement to raise wages to cover open flights, United’s senior vice president of flights, Brian Quigley, said Friday in a memo, which was reviewed by CNBC.

The note says pilots will be offered three and a half times their pay for outdoor flights from December 30 to January 3, and triple pay for flight taxes between January 4 and 29.

“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing a record level of pilot sickness calls,” the pilots union wrote to its members. “The impact on the operation is clear and United has experienced a correspondingly high number of cancellations over the past week.”

United’s flight attendants also receive additional collection fees, and other airlines including JetBlue, American, Southwest and Spirit have also raised crew salaries to avoid disruptions during the holidays.

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