Delta pilots union negotiators tentatively agree on new contract

Deal: initial 18% pay hikes if union leaders approve and send to members for vote

Pilots union negotiators at Delta Air Lines have finalized language for a tentative labor agreement, a key step toward a new contract that would give pilots an initial 18% pay increase.

The tentative agreement now goes to leadership of the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta, which will spend at least a week considering the deal before it can be sent to rank-and-file pilots for a vote.

The negotiators this week finalized language in a deal reached last month for pay raises of at least 18% when the contract is signed, followed by 5% 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.

It’s been four years since Delta pilots have had a pay raise, with their last labor contract struck in 2016 for a term that ran through 2019. That means Delta pilots have missed out on the big pay hikes many workers saw during labor shortages that started in the pandemic.

Negotiations for a new Delta pilots 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.

But the tentative agreement signals progress toward a new contract.

According to terms released with the agreement in principle, Delta pilots would get a one-time payment after the deal is approved 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.

Delta on Friday reported a $1.3 billion profit for 2022, reaping the benefits of a strong rebound in travel and high air fares paid by consumers clamoring to return to the skies. Delta said the tentative agreement language finalized by company and union negotiating teams is for a new pilot contract “that recognizes the contributions of our pilots to Delta’s success.”

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 union’s negotiating committee last month called it a “generational improvement” to their labor contract.

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 Delta pilots union leadership will meet next week to discuss the tentative agreement.

If they approve it, the union will hold road shows to explain the labor deal to pilots before a ratification vote is completed.