Delta Pilots Near New Contract, Huge Pay Raises

Delta Pilots Near New Contract, Huge Pay Raises

52

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.

Pilots at Delta are looking at huge pay bumps

How much would Delta pilots be paid with this new contract?

I’ve written in the past about how much airline pilots are paid, and the general math that goes into that. Airline Pilot Central publishes pay rates of all the major airlines, including Delta.

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.

This would get Delta pilots industry leading pay

Bottom line

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?

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  1. John Jones Guest

    After inflation this is not a pay raise. This in the face of a huge Pilot Shortage.

  2. A finance guy Guest

    A funny coincidence, the road to bankruptcy starts with signing absurd labor contracts. and the road after bankruptcy also begins with axing those absurd labor contracts. Airline fares do not rise with inflation, so its comical to think that costs can increase FASTER than inflation over the long term, and expect companies can handle the pressure.

    Truly amazing to see basic economics ignored

  3. Enzo Guest

    Pilot salary represents such a small fraction of airline operating costs, these increases would represent pennies or nickels on a ticket. Pilots are arguably the most crucial component in the safe, efficient operation of a flight.

    Decades of experience and sacrifice sit up front of every aircraft with the single goal of getting you and your family there safely.

    Many in the general public take it for granted.

    Anyone that thinks AI or...

    Pilot salary represents such a small fraction of airline operating costs, these increases would represent pennies or nickels on a ticket. Pilots are arguably the most crucial component in the safe, efficient operation of a flight.

    Decades of experience and sacrifice sit up front of every aircraft with the single goal of getting you and your family there safely.

    Many in the general public take it for granted.

    Anyone that thinks AI or a single pilot in the front is desirable to save a buck is ignorant to what runs up front day to day to get a flight from A to B.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      according to real data, pre-covid, Delta pilot salaries were $4.3 BILLION/year for 40% of their total personnel related costs or 11% of total costs; Delta had a CASM just under 15 cents/available seat mile. With an 86% load factor, that makes pilot costs on a 2000 mile segment about $27. Not peanuts - and a 30% increase in compensation does add up. But this is just for pilots. $75 for all Delta employees.
      And,...

      according to real data, pre-covid, Delta pilot salaries were $4.3 BILLION/year for 40% of their total personnel related costs or 11% of total costs; Delta had a CASM just under 15 cents/available seat mile. With an 86% load factor, that makes pilot costs on a 2000 mile segment about $27. Not peanuts - and a 30% increase in compensation does add up. But this is just for pilots. $75 for all Delta employees.
      And, again, Delta will increase the rest of its employees' compensation by significant amounts.
      They clearly can afford to or they would not have agreed to - but don't kid yourself that they signed up for billions in extra costs.
      The key is that Delta is the least recovered airline in terms of capacity so they could see another$5-8 billion in revenue in 2023 over 2022.
      The real risk for other airlines is that they do not have near as much revenue upside because they have already restored alot more capacity.
      And Delta mgmt, not the union, recognized that and is willing to force other airlines to spend alot more money in employee costs with a much smaller revenue upside.

    2. Schemp Guest

      Not sure what kool-aide you're drinking ("...such a small fraction of airline operating costs")...the highest costs in running an airline are labor and fuel.

  4. DEE Guest

    I hate UNIONS they cost all of the customers soooo much more for sooo much less in service!! thanks Delta pilots..$440,000 a year and then raises for the next 4 +++ nuts

    1. Derek Guest

      You could always learn to fly and diy (dbl meaning there). Although it’d cost ya 100 x as much. Go for it!

  5. Anotherairlinepilot Guest

    Way too hit it out the park with the AIP, standing tall against management, and make them pay what you deserve. Our management wanted to wait and see, now they will.

  6. Actualairlinepilot Guest

    People who believe that AI will replace pilots do not understand the magnitude of the problem. Our system is incredibly safe, largely because we have two highly trained pilots in the cockpit backing each other up on every decision. As I always brief my FO, “it’s not a mistake until we both make it.” AI might be able to fly an airplane from one airport to another, as long as nothing changes, but things always...

    People who believe that AI will replace pilots do not understand the magnitude of the problem. Our system is incredibly safe, largely because we have two highly trained pilots in the cockpit backing each other up on every decision. As I always brief my FO, “it’s not a mistake until we both make it.” AI might be able to fly an airplane from one airport to another, as long as nothing changes, but things always change. For example, on a recent flight I dealt with the following; a failed engine start and subsequent troubleshooting, a ground crew that failed to enable my nosewheel steering after pushback, de-icing, multiple altitude and route changes to avoid turbulence, an inflight passenger medical problem requiring radio consultation with a doctor, and a landing on a short runway that does not support Autoland. (US pilots rarely Autoland unless it is specifically required, which is very rare, because we like to stay proficient)
    To get an airline AI system that could accomplish all that consistently and meet or exceed our current safety level would cost trillions.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      It will be years if ever before single pilot commercial passenger ops exist in the US other than long haul intercontinental cruise let alone no pilot ops

    2. Actualairlinepilot Guest

      If you go with a single pilot, you have to have a zero pilot plan because, like it or not, pilots become disabled or die in the cockpit every once in a while.

    3. Max Guest

      No pilot, fully automated, is actually safer than just one pilot. By now it has also become statistically safer than two pilots.

    4. Actualairlinepilot New Member

      Not even close.

    5. Enzo Guest

      What statistics? There are no fully automated airlines in existence.

      Remotely piloted drones have a horrendous safety record.

    6. DEREK Guest

      Show me this study plz. Pssst, US military AI crash stats tell diff story. And this is in Restricted airspace. Not the crowed airspace millions fly in daily.

  7. MaxPower Guest

    Busy trolling day for Timmy

  8. Robert Guest

    I can't say how excited I am that my son wants to be a commercial pilot. He's got awhile before he's ready but he's motivated. Wish I had thought of this as a career, I had no idea what I could do for a career

    1. Brian Gasser Guest

      It is a highly cyclical industry. When times are good, you can make a good income. When times are bad, your airline can go bankrupt or kill off your pension. Hopefully as airlines have consolidated, there will be more stability. However, without the Cares Act, AA and UA would probably have gone through bankruptcy again during the pandemic.

  9. TimDunnLover101 New Member

    I wish I could bring Tim as much pleasure myself as this article is going to bring him

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      you can't help yourself, can you?
      go back to the kiddie table and leave the conversation here to adults.

    2. TimDunnLover101 New Member

      Idk why I'm being persecuted for fulfilling a niche role that OMAAT is in need of right now.

    3. GLCTraveler Gold

      @TDL101....... What child!

      Really, you have nothing better to do the Troll Tim? Whooooa??

  10. Rick Foote Guest

    Ben,

    I am a Federal government employee, and to convert hourly rates to yearly rates for Feds (approximately) you multiply the hourly rate by 2,000*, not 1,000. You are probably correct though about adding three zeros, because I'm assuming pilots fly 1,000 hours/year, not 2,000.

    * the actual number to use is 2,087

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      airline pilots are paid by flight hours and they are generally limited to 1000 flight hours per year - and often less. but they do get other types of pay and pension contributions that are more than most people make in salaries.

    2. Enzo Guest

      Pilot pay hours will vary depending on scheduling, overtime, and other things. 75 hours to 80 hours per month would be a typical range

      But remember for every paid flight hour, pilots spend hours fight planning, sitting in the airport between flights, dealing with the same delays passengers do, doing paperwork, training, studying, reviewing updated manuals and procedures, liasing with ATC, maintenance, dispatch, flight attendants, passengers, and they aren't getting paid. Pay starts when...

      Pilot pay hours will vary depending on scheduling, overtime, and other things. 75 hours to 80 hours per month would be a typical range

      But remember for every paid flight hour, pilots spend hours fight planning, sitting in the airport between flights, dealing with the same delays passengers do, doing paperwork, training, studying, reviewing updated manuals and procedures, liasing with ATC, maintenance, dispatch, flight attendants, passengers, and they aren't getting paid. Pay starts when doors close and the brakes come off.

      Not to mention all the time away from home, in airport hotels, away from family, from the kids birthday or big game. All the nights lost sleep, all the time zones, all the 3am wake up calls, all the radiation...

      Ultimately Pilot pay is earned, not just because that LAX-EWR flight you watched a movie on was uneventful, but because the previous 20 or 30 years of sacrifice and experience the two professionals up front put in, ensured it was uneventful.

  11. Arie Guest

    Delta is being smart and looking into their future. Pilot retention is the key issue for airlines, and costs to replace a pilot, and recruit and train new ones are higher than giving away more money now and keeping your pilots working and happy.

    1. Creditian Guest

      It's not about pilots. It's about pushing up operation costs of WN, AA, UA, AS, B6, especially fragile AA. If AA goes out of business, DL will make MUCH MORE money than new contract with pilots.

      They have ZERO intention of caring those pilots who think that they are smart. They only want to eliminate competitors.

  12. dwondermeant Guest

    in other news to afford the new pay raises all sky peso redemption's will be doubling or tripling

    1. Robert Guest

      You still had optimism with Skymiles?

  13. Romulus Guest

    I am glad I have no plans to fly Delta in the future. I am guessing their fares will be sky high. So much for controlling inflation.

    1. Jimmy Guest

      You sound like you should take the bus.

  14. Creditian Guest

    Rushing to their next bankruptcy, good job everyone.

    1. Jimmy Guest

      Poor Airline managements have been the sole cause of bankruptcies in the past 40 years

  15. Markj Guest

    Probably a decent bet that some of these pilot contracts may get unwound in a bankruptcy filing. Such is the nature of the business.

    It also makes me wonder if these pay rates will affect the viability of the A321XLR. Big pilot costs spread over not many passengers.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      ...that is precisely why Delta has shown no interest in narrowbody flights with an augmented crew (over 8 hours).
      The legacy airline bankruptcies were largely driven by their defined benefit pension plans - which have all been frozen or terminated. They just used bankruptcy to cut labor costs.

    2. Hyytekk Guest

      Boggles my mind. This is basically a part time job with about half the month off. The captain and first officer alternate flights so actual flying the plane is divided by 2. On many planes, especially Airbus, the plane is capable of flying itself and landing, and mostly does. Some captains at AA are alreading making over $500k a year under the old contract with many flights offering double pay as incentive for shortages. I'm...

      Boggles my mind. This is basically a part time job with about half the month off. The captain and first officer alternate flights so actual flying the plane is divided by 2. On many planes, especially Airbus, the plane is capable of flying itself and landing, and mostly does. Some captains at AA are alreading making over $500k a year under the old contract with many flights offering double pay as incentive for shortages. I'm all for anyone negotiating the best pay package they can leverage, but these salaries are so out of real worth, productivity or sanity. AA for one is 45 billion in debt now with increasing debt servicing costs and interest rates. Other work groups in the same airlines have not seen any pay hikes in almost 15 years. The pie is only so big so these privileged salaries will leave crumbs for the support staff. This can only end badly for consumers, for other airline work groups and eventually for bankruptcy scenarios. Will you feel safe flying on planes with disgruntled mechanics or agents who might route your luggage to Timbuktu? Most cleaners are contract help already to save money, this explains why planes are often filthy with sticky tray tables. I can't wait for AI to replace these overpaid elitists. I respect all professions, but flying an airplane isn't rocket science or brain surgery and requires a fraction of the time and training as others who might justify those nosebleed salaries.
      A 14 year old girl flew solo coast to coast not long ago! So dial down your TopGun swagger boys and girls in the cockpit. How sad to see this greed that's the equivalent of price gouging after some natural disaster. A pilot told me recently, "We've given and sacrificed for years, now it's our time to get back!" Sacrificed? What alternate reality do these guys mentally occupy? They will all get their 30% plus pay hikes. It will not end well for anyone.

    3. Tim Dunn Diamond

      if you're not quite 65 and in decent health, you too can start the journey to become an airline pilot.
      What say you?

    4. Actualairlinepilot Guest

      I’m a Delta Captain…I know you are just trolling, but I’ll bite anyway.

      1. Part time job? I worked 16 days out of the last 20, including weekends and Thanksgiving, sleeping in hotels 13 nights.

      2. Whether I’m flying or my FO is flying, I’m still working. As the captain, I’m responsible for everything, no matter who’s hands are on the controls. That includes the autopilot, which requires continuous monitoring, because it doesn’t always do...

      I’m a Delta Captain…I know you are just trolling, but I’ll bite anyway.

      1. Part time job? I worked 16 days out of the last 20, including weekends and Thanksgiving, sleeping in hotels 13 nights.

      2. Whether I’m flying or my FO is flying, I’m still working. As the captain, I’m responsible for everything, no matter who’s hands are on the controls. That includes the autopilot, which requires continuous monitoring, because it doesn’t always do what it is supposed to do. Boeing or Airbus, same story.

      3. Everyone at Delta has had more than one pay raise since us pilots got our last raise.

      4. AI…I made a separate post to address this. Bottom line, I’ll never put myself or anyone I love on an airplane without two pilots in the cockpit.

    5. Creditian Guest

      It will not push DL to bankruptcy, probably will be AA.

      Pilot's contract is the chess of DL to drive competitors out of markets, especially at NYC and LAX. If AA is out, 2 biggest cities airports (LGA/JFK/LAX) would be entirely dominated by DL.

      When US market becomes like Canada, average people get hurt the most.

    6. Brian Gasser Guest

      ALPA knows the fagile state AA is in. There is little point for the union to demand raises that will put the airline and its employees out of work. I doubt the AA pilot contract will be as generous.

  16. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    This contract seems to be at the expense of other Airline workers. Feels like 20%-25% "richer" than it needed to be, and maybe some performance based bonuses could have been used instead of promising such a high base rate. All that being said, the pilots definitely deserved the 3 years back pay and all of the QOL improvements.

    1. Robert Guest

      Delta clearly feels it's in line with things otherwise they'd not have agreed with this so quickly

  17. Sean M. Diamond

    History has shown that airlines who peg their costs to the apex of revenue usually wind up regretting it during the next cycle.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      remember that tens of thousands of Delta employees took early retirement during the pandemic - the highest percentage of any airline - so Delta is rebuilding with a much more junior workforce.
      Delta was the most profitable global airline pre-pandemic and said they would take that place again and have an even bigger lead over the competition.
      Delta's President who started as Delta's network boss led these negotations for the company. he has...

      remember that tens of thousands of Delta employees took early retirement during the pandemic - the highest percentage of any airline - so Delta is rebuilding with a much more junior workforce.
      Delta was the most profitable global airline pre-pandemic and said they would take that place again and have an even bigger lead over the competition.
      Delta's President who started as Delta's network boss led these negotations for the company. he has done an outstanding job of repositioning Delta as a premium revenue airline. He would not have agreed to any cost that he didn't think he could exceed with new revenue.

      btw, JetBlue pilots say they are experiencing a 60% no-show rate for interviews. The low cost carriers are simply getting crushed in the pilot shortage. The legacy carriers plus Southwest are simply going to set the pace of the industry. Covid and the after effects have been devastating for low cost carriers.

      and Brian, below, Delta laid out a pretty aggressive schedule to pay down debt - which they again should be able to do given the strong revenue momentum. Dividends will come back for DAL and LUV.

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      @Tim Dunn - pardon my skepticism but I've heard similar justifications from many others in the past.

      Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    3. Brian Gasser Guest

      @Tim Dunn- Delta and all the other US global airlines had to go through bankruptcy proceedings in the last 15 years when they could not meet their financial obligations. You have more faith in management financial estimates than I do based on their longer term track record.

      Airlines profit has traditonally been in the single to low double digits. A 30% pay raise makes maintaining profits in the next downturn a big challenge.

      ...

      @Tim Dunn- Delta and all the other US global airlines had to go through bankruptcy proceedings in the last 15 years when they could not meet their financial obligations. You have more faith in management financial estimates than I do based on their longer term track record.

      Airlines profit has traditonally been in the single to low double digits. A 30% pay raise makes maintaining profits in the next downturn a big challenge.

      Retiring you senior staff during the pandemic, which caused a shortage of pilots, and led to a large pay raise for all pilots, doesnt seem like a cost savings you are implying. The loss of staff has caused Delta to pay more in raises and the lack of employees during last summer to capture all the demand that existed.

  18. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Glad you gave this its own topic.
    A couple notables:
    - this contract improvement is far richer than the proposal that was forced on railroad workers by Congress and the President which is partly interesting given that railroads did far better during the pandemic than airlines even considering the federal aid airlines received.
    - the retro going back to 2020 is significant since it was during the pandemic and when the government...

    Glad you gave this its own topic.
    A couple notables:
    - this contract improvement is far richer than the proposal that was forced on railroad workers by Congress and the President which is partly interesting given that railroads did far better during the pandemic than airlines even considering the federal aid airlines received.
    - the retro going back to 2020 is significant since it was during the pandemic and when the government supported airlines.
    - if approved, Delta in a moment becomes the top choice for many pilots (base considerations excluded) while airlines that take longer to get new contracts will suffer to recruit pilots
    - many of the QOL issues include economic incentives for Delta to use its pilots more efficiently. They have been very inefficiently used which has been costly to the company.
    - this contract proposal is worth almost 2X as much per year as the failed AAL and UAL AIPs and/or rejected contract. Both probably did not want to spend this much but will have no choice.
    - since Delta's pilots are its only large unionized group, it is likely that its other employees will see large increases in the near future - which will also impact other airline wages.

    and since you noted a Delta A350 as your "cover" photo, this new contract should pave the way for an order for 20 or so A350-1000s, the longest range and largest in-production aircraft (until the 777X enters service). Delta's President (also involved in the negotiations to get this AIP done) told employees months ago that Delta had asked for board approval for the purchase.

    As for concern about paying for all of this, Delta has restored the least amount of capacity post covid so will see the greatest increase in revenue by next summer when it expects to exceed 2019 capacity.

    1. Brian Gasser Guest

      Hopefully there will be some money left after the salary and profit sharing checks for airline investors to get a dividend (canceled in 2020) and to continue to pay down debt. Delta has taken care of its highest paid employees, hopefully it can address it other parties who would like to be compensated at a fair rate.

  19. Brian Gasser Guest

    Airlines are a boom and bust industry. Its good for the workers to get a contract during a boom times. Hopefully when demand declines airlines will still have the resources to invest in their product after this pay package.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      Brian,
      there are precisely THREE remaining airlines left that have existed for the entire length of commercial air service in the United States - American, Delta and United.
      You don't survive every other competitor without having a pretty good amount of survivor oriented DNA - evidenced by outlasting scores of other airlines.

      Delta just happens to the oldest of those remaining three airlines.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

History has shown that airlines who peg their costs to the apex of revenue usually wind up regretting it during the next cycle.

5
Actualairlinepilot Guest

If you go with a single pilot, you have to have a zero pilot plan because, like it or not, pilots become disabled or die in the cockpit every once in a while.

3
A finance guy Guest

A funny coincidence, the road to bankruptcy starts with signing absurd labor contracts. and the road after bankruptcy also begins with axing those absurd labor contracts. Airline fares do not rise with inflation, so its comical to think that costs can increase FASTER than inflation over the long term, and expect companies can handle the pressure. Truly amazing to see basic economics ignored

2
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