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Is Delta’s new contract proposal setting a benchmark in the industry?

Following last week’s post that discussed Delta’s newest deal, it seems that more airlines could be following suit. Although Delta is still awaiting approval from union leaders, now it has been suggested that pilots at United and American Airlines are expecting similar pay rises.

Delta’s offer will see pilots gaining at 34% cumulative pay rise over the course of four years. Additionally, the offer includes a lump-sum payment and improved holiday pay among other improvements to working conditions.

Increases in wages will begin with an 18% rise when the contract is signed, followed by another 5% a year later, and then 4% for the next two years.

It is estimated that it could cost the airline more than $7.2 billion.

While Delta’s union leaders deliberate on the deal, pilots at United and America have explained that the new deal has “raised the bar” with their proposal.

Photo: Pieter van Marion, CC BY-SA 2.0

If Delta pilots vote in favour of the new deal it would come into effect on 1st January 2023.

When considering American and United have promised their pilots an ‘industry leading deal’, it is unlikely that their pilots will accept any offer lower than the Delta one.

One American pilot said, “This is going to be the benchmark.”

Already smaller carriers have improved their offers. For example, Spirit Airlines, raised their offer by a cumulative average of 34%, the same as Delta. The airline also increased first officer wages by 43% with captains also seeing an improvement of 25%.

Pilots at American had been offered a pay hike of 19% over two years, which would have cost the company an estimated $2 billion, but chose not to take it.

Meanwhile, pilots at United Airlines had already rejected an offer to increase pay by 14.5%, alongside improved overtime and training pay.

"United leadership has said that they want to see what the market is," a pilot at United explained. "If this contract gets accepted and ratified by the Delta membership, then that'll be the new market.”

Before the specifics of the Delta proposal were announced the Allied Pilots Association distributed a message to its members outlining Delta’s deal as a " significant event” that would "stimulate other ongoing labour negotiations.”

With demand increasing and pilot shortages, the Delta deal showcases the improved bargaining power of pilots.

Earlier this week, Casey Murray, a pilot and president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, told Reuters, "It's a pilot market today [..] Pilots can decide and choose where they want to go.”

It's only a matter of time until we know if Delta pilots have chosen to accept the proposed deal but with United and American Airlines closely watching it might not be too long till we see a similar one cross the desks of their pilots.

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