Delta employees to get 4% pay raise

October 5, 2021 Atlanta - Delta Air Lines employees work the ticket counter in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday, October 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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October 5, 2021 Atlanta - Delta Air Lines employees work the ticket counter in the Domestic Terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta on Tuesday, October 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

After making steep pay cuts during the pandemic, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is giving its employees a 4% raise.

The salary bumps come as the company tries to fend off unionization efforts and hire enough workers to handle the thousands of travelers returning to the skies.

In 2020, when the pandemic caused a 60% drop in air travel, more than 40,000 Delta employees took unpaid leave, and many who continued working saw their hours and pay cut by 25% or more. Their pay was restored to previous levels last year, but this is the first such raise broadly given to Delta employees since 2019.

The increase in base pay for the majority of the company’s 75,000 employees takes effect on May 1, as the company sees what CEO Ed Bastian describes as a “healthy demand for spring and summer travel.”

“We continue to be optimistic in our ability to generate a profit this year,” Bastian wrote in a memo to employees.

During the boom years for Delta, before the pandemic, the company posted multi-billion dollar profits and doled out huge profit sharing bonuses to employees across the company. But it halted those bonuses in 2021 after losing $12.4 billion the previous year and instead issued smaller $1,250 bonuses earlier this year.

As travel recovers, the airline industry also has coped with staffing shortages, similar to those that have prompted many U.S. companies to pay more to attract and retain workers.

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Delta pilots picketed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport last week, pointing to staffing issues that they say have caused them to work fatiguing schedules and overtime.

“Every work group has probably worked more in the rebuild than they would like to, and we’re committed to getting the staffing levels right over time,” Delta president Glen Hauenstein said this week.

When Delta announced the pay raise Thursday, it had more than 580 job openings listed on its website, ranging from analyst jobs at its headquarters to aircraft mechanic positions at airports around the country.

The airline is also working to hire 200 pilots a month. But pilots will not get the 4% pay raises announced Thursday, since Delta pilots are unionized and work under a labor contract. The union is in mediated negotiations with the company for a new contract.

Delta also faces a unionization effort targeting its flight attendants, who, along with ground employees, will get the 4% raise.

The Association of Flight Attendants said earlier this month that Delta flight attendants have not seen pay scale increases since 2019. Meanwhile, unionized flight attendants at other airlines have received raises.

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