Delta pilots union leaders to send labor deal out to members for vote

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The leaders of the pilots union at Delta Air Lines have voted to send a tentative labor agreement on to rank-and-file members for a ratification vote.

It’s the latest step toward a new union contract that would give pilots at Atlanta-based Delta an initial 18% pay increase.

The vote Wednesday by the master executive council of the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta comes after an agreement in principle on the labor deal was reached in early December, followed by negotiators’ finalization of the language in a tentative agreement last week.

But Wednesday’s vote by the union’s leaders was not unanimous, signaling some dissatisfaction with the terms. The initial vote was 14 in favor and 3 against. Some pilots are seeking more improvements to the contract, after going four years without raises. Delta last week reported a $1.3 billion profit for 2022.

The last Delta pilots contract was struck in 2016 for a term that ran through 2019. Negotiations for a new contract started in 2019, but were halted during the COVID-19 pandemic and resumed in early 2022.

The pilots union last year picketed at airports, and Delta pilots in October voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike if necessary.

Delta pilots union chairman Darren Hartmann told members in a memo Wednesday that a majority of the union’s leaders “believe the agreements contain significant value for the Delta pilots across-the-board” and that it is an industry-leading agreement.

With the union leaders’ imprimatur, the tentative labor deal and a separate agreement on international job protections will go to Delta pilots for a vote to be held Jan. 31 until March 1.

Delta has said the tentative agreement for a new pilot contract “recognizes the contributions of our pilots to Delta’s success.”

If the contract is approved, the 18% pay increase would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2023, based on a deal struck last month between the union and management. That would be followed by a 5% raise after the first year, 4% after the second year and another 4% after the third year.

Delta pilot pay varies depending on schedule, aircraft and other factors, but current flight pay can range from an average of $75,000 a year for a starting first officer to more than $300,000 a year for wide-body captain, based on flying 75 hours a month.

Per the agreement in principle, after ratification Delta pilots would get a one-time payment equivalent to 14% of their pay last year plus 4% of their pay for each of the previous two years. And, the agreement would ensure Delta pilots would have pay rates at least 1% higher than pilot pay at United Airlines and American Airlines.

The pilots agreement would also bring improvements in holiday pay, vacation, 401(k) contributions and work rules. And it would allow pilots 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, two weeks of paid parental leave and reduced medical insurance premiums.

The union said that overall, the agreement would improve the value of the contract by 45%.

The deal would also further restrict Delta’s use of regional jets, a form of outsourcing with regional carriers operating flights flown by lower-paid pilots.

The union will hold road shows at Delta pilot bases in the next couple of weeks to present the labor agreement and answer questions as members prepare to vote on the deal.