Delta Air Lines pilots, via their union representative, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), voted to approve a new contract on Wednesday that gives a 15,000-strong group of employees a raise over the next few years, per CNBC.
The raises will be based on the experience of the pilot and what type of aircraft is being flown. In total, the raises will amount to 34% through 2026.
“From the beginning of the negotiations process, we set out to deliver the industry’s best pilot contract to the industry’s best pilots, one that keeps us as a top destination for U.S. aviation careers, and this contract is a reflection of that unwavering commitment,” said John Laughter, Delta’s chief of operations, in the company’s press release.
Airline industry contracts do not expire, per the law, but can be changed, the Associated Press noted. This one became available for changes in 2019.
Delta, like other airlines, is facing a pilot shortage after giving out early retirement offers when the pandemic hit — then was left in a lurch when people began traveling again en masse, as the New York Times reported. The pay increases will also likely give pilots at other airlines more of a leg to stand on in pay negotiations.
The ALPA’s statement praised the union’s organizing efforts. Those included pilot picketing in 2022 and a vote to approve a strike if “necessary” in October 2022. It also discussed the lag in talks due to the coronavirus.
“Despite a two-year delay in negotiations due to COVID, we never lost sight of our goal to obtain significant across-the-board enhancements to our pilot working agreement,” said Darren Hartmann, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council (Delta’s union in the ALPA), in the statement.
The ALPA further said that 97% of eligible pilots voted, and it won approval from 78% of the group.
The contract provides for raises of 18% when it is signed and then annual raises of 4% or 5% through 2026. The contract also provides improvements to retirement contributions and vacation policies, per the Times.