Delta Pilots Are Getting A 30%+ Pay Raise

Filed Under: Delta, Unions

Roughly 82% of Delta’s 13,000 pilots have voted in favor of a new contract, which will see them getting a pay raise of over 30% over four years. Pilots had voted down an earlier contract, so while this one will be costly for the airline, at least they have an agreement that should lead to good management and pilot relations for a few years.

Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, here’s how the deal is structured:

They’ll get an additional 3 percent raise in 2017, followed by another 3 percent raise in 2018 and a 4 percent raise in 2019.

The Air Line Pilots Association union at Delta has been pushing for raises to make up for pay cuts of as much as 50 percent that pilots sustained during the company’s financial struggles and bankruptcy a decade ago.

I suppose it’s great that they’re able to start to recover some of the cuts they were dealt after 9/11. Interestingly this new contract could also cost other airlines, including United, which has a clause that would match higher pay at other airlines:

The Delta pilots deal also raises the pay bar for the industry.United Airlines pilots have a “me too” clause in their contract that stipulates they receive raises if Delta pilots get higher pay, and it could affect other airlines’ pilot contracts over the long term.

So, what does this pay raise look like in numbers? Based on 12 years seniority and 1,000 hours of flying per year, here’s what pay will look like for 777 and MD88 pilots:

777 Captain:

  • Currently: $271,790
  • With the new contract: $320,710
  • In 2019: $353,850

777 First Officer:

  • Currently: $169,250
  • With the new contract: $199,720
  • In 2019: $220,360

MD88 Captain:

  • Currently: $206,730
  • With the new contract: $243,940
  • In 2019: $269,150

MD88 First Officer:

  • Currently: $127,230
  • With the new contract: $150,130
  • In 2019: $165,640


Bottom line

Congrats to Delta’s pilots on their new contract, and it’ll be curious to see how other airlines react. You have to wonder how much longer U.S. airlines will be doing as well as they’ve been doing, with increased labor costs, a weak global economy, and the potential increase in oil prices.

  1. @lucky – I don’t think your numbers are factoring in their profit sharing. I have an MD88 pilot friend at Delta and we were just talking about this topic a couple weeks ago. I was SHOCKED to learn that 30%+ annual bonuses are given to pilots in the form of profit sharing (obviously depending on the airline’s financial performance during the year). While I don’t begrudge anyone a decent living for hard work, it makes me think twice about where I spend my money, how often, etc.

    To your point though, it does make one wonder how long these good times will last, given all the factors you pointed out. Bottom line: I won’t shed one tear for these guys during the next downturn.

  2. @ Chris — Whoops, you’re right, thanks. Will remove that section, since I’m not sure what the correct number should be.

  3. This is insane.

    U.S. legacy carriers are some of the most expensive airlines on the planet, largely because — like in the old Soviet Union — the government engages in draconian protectionism on their behalf, all the while allowing them to operate as a duopoly.

    If Americans had nice buses or affordable high-speed trains on which to travel, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the reality is most Americans have no choice but to travel by plane for work, pleasure and family emergencies.

  4. Why is there such a salary discrepancy between the type of airplane the pilot’s fly? Is the that much more difficult to fly a 777 over a MD80.

    Not being smart, really just curious; I would have thought the salaries would be largely the same.

  5. @Daniel Peake

    One could make the argument that the MDs are harder to fly than the 777s, so why not pay MD pilots more?

    A counter-argument is that a 777 carries more pax, so carriers want the most experienced pilots flying it.

    I suspect my second statement is correct, but it’s a good/fair question to ask and I hope someone who actually knows can answer it.

  6. Not sure why people are so shocked by the salaries of the pilots of these big planes. They are literally responsible for the lives of hundreds of people every day they go to work. That is some serious stress. I make more than that as a dentist and I am only responsible for some teeth, and there are plenty of people who make more than that with no real skill or responsibility. I realize people often begrudge people with high salaries but to criticize a pilot of a plane that holds well over 100 people making $300K is pretty crazy IMO.

  7. It’s good for pilots to be sure, but I’m sure you know where the money to pay for it is coming from, and it ain’t lower fares….

  8. 777 pilots certainly carry more people per flight, but surely MD pilots fly more people per shift/trip/year. If their pay is ment to be comensurate with responsibility for a quantity of souls transported ALPA did their math wrong.

  9. Gotta love the unfaltering pilot haters on this blog. Here’s an idea: find a time machine, rewind to your 18-year-old selves, slog your way through pilot school, bring home pennies while your wife works double shifts to make ends meet (first 5-10 years), and then listen to schmucks complain about how much you earn…whilst safely transporting their sorry a*ses from A to B.

    Actually nm. You people [grousers] doubtless lack the mental acuity for the job. Don’t despair: the world needs more paper pushers than pilots.

    Seriously, tho. Stfu already.

  10. @NotAPilot an Uber drive also safely transports you from A to B. Should they make nearly 300k a year too?

  11. Interesting increase for the MD-88 crews. Based on what I’ve read, the majority of those aircraft will be gone by 2019 as more 321s join the fleet.

  12. @Thomas

    Virtually every licensed driver has the skills required to be an Uber drive. A fraction of the population has the ability to fly a commercial aircraft. It’s apples to oranges.

  13. Happy for them!!!! @James It’s not a crime to be rich!!! And America is just fine with flying and driving cars.

    If people can’t afford it then have them walk to their destination or make more money!!

  14. For those that think the pay is great or too high – learn what pilots have to spend and how long it takes to get there. Most pilots will have spent over $100k on flight training and school before being able to make a salary, and most will start at $18-30k at regionals in reality (unlike advertised), not to mention the poor pay as flight instructors while they get hours. Some pilots spent a decade at regionals, and then there are other pathways before they get to this point.

    Does a career pilot retire on the plus side? Yes, but it takes a lot of struggle to get there AND assumes no layoffs, etc which are historically guaranteed.

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  16. Do you really want someone making minimum wage, flying hundreds of people, thousands of feet in the sky in the over crowded skies?

  17. I’ve read that, out the price that I pay as a passenger for an average ticket, the price for the pilot’s wages & benefits, (the working pilots up front) are something like $6.00 to $8.00. If that is even close, it doesn’t seem inequitable in the least.

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