Hundreds out of service Delta Air Lines pilots joined picket lines at airports across the country Thursday to fight for better pay, retirement, job protection and better hours.
However, the fight comes at a time when the entire industry is already grappling with staffing shortages, including pilots, as well as air traffic control and weather constraints, which is leading to a avalanche of cancellations and delays.
Still, decommissioned pilots lined up at various Delta hubs, from Los Angeles to New York, to protest protracted contract negotiations, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 13,900 Delta pilots.
Flight attendants also sympathize with them, according to Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International.
“Flight attendants stand with Delta pilots as they protest for a fair contract. Flight attendants are organizing because we want the right to negotiate a contract, too,” Nelson told FOX Business. “For too long, Delta pilots have essentially had to bargain for all Delta workers. It’s time for that to change.”
Delta pilots have not negotiated a new contract since 2016, meaning they are “flying under work rules and pay rates negotiated more than six years ago,” ALPA said in an open letter published this week.
Pilots hold signs calling for an “industry leading” contract. They are advocating for better wages, retirement, job protections, and pilot hours.
Earlier this month, ALPA published an open letter to Delta Air Lines customers, saying its members sympathized with travelers whose flights were delayed or canceled and blamed Delta management. The union said Delta has scheduled more flights than pilots to fly, and that pilots were working record overtime.
In its most recent letter, ALPA stated that the airline “canceled more flights than any other major airline over Memorial Day weekend.”
Captain Jason Ambrosi, president 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.
“The perfect storm is happening. demand is back and pilots are flying record amounts of overtime, yet still see our customers stranded and their vacation plans ruined,” he said. “Unfortunately, these issues have not led to a greater urgency on the part of management to resolve our issues at the negotiating table.”
Delta Air Lines told FOX Business that the company, ALPA and a representative from the National Mediation Board restarted their mediated contract negotiations earlier this year. Negotiations had been stalled for two years due to the pandemic.
“Our goal remains to continue to provide Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on salary, retirement, work rules and profit sharing,” Delta said. “We are also committed to ensuring that 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 demands that Delta acknowledge how many pilots they have done for the company in recent years and wants the new contract to reflect that.
“We’re helping our airline get back on its feet by flying record amounts of overtime and spending more time than ever away from our families 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 their subsidiaries, it should similarly invest in its pilots.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.