Delta pilots aim higher in new contract talks

The pilots union at Delta Air Lines is seeking a nearly 40 percent compounded pay raise over three years as it restarts contract negotiations with management.

With Delta posting billions of dollars in profits, pilots say they want to recover from pay cuts levied during the airline’s bankruptcy and financial challenges in the past decade.

“While this proposal comes nowhere near fully restoring all the lost pay and benefits, it meaningfully advances the overall compensation,” John Malone, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association at Delta, said in a written comment. “This proposal balances what the pilots need with what the company can afford.”

The union opened negotiations with a proposal for an initial 22 percent increase in pay, followed by a 7 percent increase in pay in the second year and another 7 percent increase in the third year. Combined they would boost pay by just under 40 percent. Because it is an opening proposal, however, any final agreement could include far different numbers.

Delta said it will review the proposal and looks forward to negotiations “to reach an agreement that is good for both Delta and its pilots.”

Pilots voted down a previous tentative agreement — a first at Delta.

The rejected deal called for compounded pay raises of more than 21 percent over three years, along with a reduction in profit sharing. The union’s new proposal includes no change in profit sharing.

The rejected deal would have boosted pay for a Boeing 717 first officer to about $163,000 by the end of the contract, based on standard hourly rates and schedules. The new proposal would push that figure to about $187,000. For the captain of a widebody 777, the rejected deal would have boosted pay to about $330,000, while the new proposal would raise it to nearly $380,000.

The previous ALPA chairman resigned after pilots defeated the earlier deal. The union said it has since polled members and that pay, benefits and work rules are the most important issues.

“The market for pilots has become increasingly competitive and across the industry we are seeing an uptick in pay rates commensurate with airline profitability,” said Malone, who added that United Airlines pilots will be voting on a deal including “pay rates that will put them 16 percent above current Delta pay rates.”

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