Hundreds of off-duty Delta Air Lines pilots have joined picket lines at airports across the country Thursday to fight for better pay, retirement, job protections and better schedules.
The fight – though – comes amid a time when the entire industry is already grappling with staffing shortages, including pilots, as well as weather and air traffic control constraints, which is leading to an onslaught of cancellations and delays.
Still, off-duty pilots lined up at several Delta hubs, spanning from Los Angeles to New York, to protest protracted contract negotiations, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 13,900 Delta pilots.
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Flight attendants are also standing in solidarity with them, according to Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International.
“Flight attendants are standing with Delta pilots as they picket for a fair contract. Flight Attendants are organizing because we want the right to negotiate for a contract too,” Nelson told FOX Business. “For too long Delta pilots have essentially had to negotiate for all workers at Delta. It is time for that to change.”
Delta pilots have not negotiated a new contract since 2016, which means they are “flying under work rules and pay rates negotiated over six years ago,” the ALPA said in an open letter posted this week.
Pilots are holding signs asking for an “industry-leading” contract. They are pleading for better pay, retirement, job protections and pilot schedules.
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Earlier this month, ALPA, posted an open letter to Delta Air Lines customers, saying its members empathized with travelers whose flights were delayed or canceled, and blaming Delta management. The union said Delta has scheduled more flights than it has pilots to fly, and pilots were working record overtime hours.
In its most recent letter, the ALPA claimed that the carrier “canceled more flights than any other major airline over the Memorial Day weekend.”
Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chairman of the Delta Master Executive Council, which is a unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, is concerned about disruptions over the Independence Day Holiday weekend.
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“The perfect storm is occurring. Demand is back and pilots are flying record amounts of overtime but are still seeing our customers being stranded and their holiday plans ruined,” he said. “Unfortunately, these problems have not led to any greater urgency from management to resolve our issues at the negotiating table.”
Delta Air Lines told FOX Business that the company, the ALPA and a representative from the National Mediation Board restarted its mediated contract negotiations earlier this year. Negotiations had been stalled for two years due to the pandemic.
“Our goal remains to continue providing Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on pay, retirement, work rules, and profit sharing,” Delta said. “We’re also committed to making sure the contract language supports our ability to run a world-class operation, maintain a strong balance sheet, and invest in our business for our customers and employees alike.”
Still, Ambrosi is demanding that Delta recognizes how much pilots have done for the company for the past few years and wants the new contract to reflect that.
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“We helped our airline recover by flying record amounts of overtime and spending more time away from our families than ever before to get our customers safely to their destinations,” he said. “It’s time for management to recognize our contributions. If Delta can invest billions in foreign airlines and its subsidiaries, it must invest similarly in its pilots.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.