Delta pilots union to start contract talks

Delta pilots

Delta pilots

The pilots union at Delta Air Lines is preparing to start negotiations on a new labor contract.

The head of the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta, Ryan Schnitzler, said in a memo to the pilots that the goal is to reach an agreement "that rewards Delta pilots for your important role in fueling the Company's profitability."

More than a decade ago, the pilots agreed to pay cuts as the company went through financial struggles and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Since Delta's recovery and expansion into one of the strongest airlines in the industry, pilots have been seeking to make up for past concessions and reap the benefits of the company's profits through higher pay and benefits.

"The bankruptcy era is in the rearview mirror and has been for quite some time," Schnitzler said in the memo. "The time is now for the Delta pilots to share in the success we have helped create through our past sacrifices and by the leadership we demonstrate on the line every day when interacting with our fellow employees and customers."

Pilots are seeking “significant improvements to retirement and insurance, pay, quality of life and scope,” Schnitzler wrote in a Thursday memo to pilots, which included letters of support from pilots at Delta partners Aeromexico, Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. “The simple reality is that we still have a long way to go to get back to where we were prior to bankruptcy, but the good news is the Company can afford it like never before.”

Delta issued a statement saying its goal is “to reach an agreement that continues to recognize the contributions of our pilots toward our company’s success while also positioning Delta to continue its momentum. We are deeply committed to a collaborative relationship and negotiation process with ALPA.”

The current labor contract for Delta pilots was struck in late 2016 with a term that lasts through 2019. It grant them raises of about 30 percent over four years. That included an 18 percent raise  for 2016, 3 percent raises in 2017 and 2018 and a 4 percent raise in 2019.

The 2016 deal was reached after a tumultuous period in which pilots picketed and voted against a deal with smaller raises and other provisions criticized by some pilots. The defeat led to a change in union leadership.

Pilots are the only major unionized group at Delta.

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