At the moment we’re seeing pilots at major US airlines trying to negotiate new contracts. They didn’t have much leverage to negotiate during the first two years of the pandemic, and with pilots now being in such high demand, this is obviously a great time to try to get a new contract.
So far Alaska Airlines is the only major US airline where pilots have ratified a new contract, though Delta Air Lines might not be too far behind…
Delta & pilots reach agreement in principle on new contract
Delta and its pilots union have reached a preliminary agreement for a new contract, which would see pilots at the Atlanta-based airline getting a huge pay bump. This new contract would be worth $7.2 billion in value over the course of four years, according to a memo from the union to pilots.
This new contract would include significant pay increases, both retroactively and going forward:
- Pilots would immediately receive an 18% pay increase the day the contract is signed
- Pilots would then receive a 5% pay increase one year after that
- Pilots would then receive two 4% pay increases in the two years that follow
- Pilots would receive a one-time payment of 4% of 2020 and 2021 pay, plus a 14% payment of 2022 pay
- In the event that American or United negotiate a contract with better pay, Delta would get that pay matched, plus 1%
On top of that, pilots would get quality-of-life improvements, which would make up roughly one-quarter of the value of the overall agreement. This includes things like 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, two weeks of paid paternal leave, significantly improved crew meals, improved health insurance, and more. Interestingly this contract also includes a provision that “establishes medical freedom protections.” Oh my…
Pilots of course still have to vote on the new contract, so it will likely be several weeks until this is finalized.
This is great progress, as in late October, Delta pilots voted to authorized a strike — 96% of pilots cast votes, and 99% of those pilots voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Admittedly this was more about sending a message to management than anything else, since authorizing a strike is only the first of many steps to a strike actually happening. We haven’t seen a strike among pilots at a US airline for more than 15 years.
How much would Delta pilots be paid with this new contract?
Delta first officer pay ranges from $92 to $242 per hour, while Delta captain pay ranges from $238 to $334 per hour. You can generally just add three zeroes to the end of that to roughly figure out annual pay, though with Delta it’s usually even a bit higher than that, thanks to profit sharing. If this contract is ratified, Delta pilots would be looking at pay raises of over 30% over the next four years.
In other words, Delta’s most senior captains would be earning roughly $440 per hour, or around $440K per year (and probably even more than that).
With American and United both currently negotiating contracts, you can bet that pilots at both airlines will be looking to Delta as a benchmark. For that matter, Delta pilots will be looking at the contracts of American and United, as they can potentially get those contracts matched, plus 1%.
Also keep in mind that even though Alaska has finalized its contract, there’s a provision that if pilots at other airlines get a better contract, Alaska will match it. Alaska pilots are entitled to the average of the top of the pay scales of American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United, so these pilots could be looking at some additional raises as well.
Delta management and the union representing pilots have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract. The contract will be worth $7.2 billion to pilots over the next four years, and will include an immediate 18% pay raise, a further 13% in pay raises in the three years that follow, retroactive pay raises, and quality of life improvements.
You can bet that both executives and unions at American and United are watching this closely, because it probably gives them a sense of what they can expect to pay.
What do you make of Delta’s new tentative pilot agreement?