Delta gets closer to labor deal with pilots, union says

Key Points
  • The Air Line Pilots Association told its members that Delta has moved closer to a labor agreement.
  • The largest U.S. airlines haven't yet struck new labor deals with pilots’ unions.
  • Delta, United, American and Southwest pilots are demanding higher pay and better schedules.
  • Delta pilots in late October voted to authorize a potential strike.

In this article

Pilots talk after exiting a Delta Airlines flight at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia.
Michael A. McCoy | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines is getting closer to a labor deal with pilots, the pilots union said, marking a big improvement in a relationship that turned icy during yearslong negotiations.

A preliminary deal this year would clear a major hurdle for Delta. Other carriers, including rivals United and American, have also been unable to reach new labor agreements. Contract talks were derailed during the pandemic as travel demand plunged and carriers booked record losses.

Airlines are now profitable again, but negotiations have remained difficult throughout the industry. Delta, American, United, FedEx and Southwest pilots have picketed in recent months to demand better pay and schedules. Passenger airline pilots complained about poor quality of life from frequent flight changes and grueling schedules.

"While it is unclear exactly what the catalyst was for management's movement toward our asks this past week, it was decisively the most productive week of negotiations" since talks opened more than three years ago, the Air Line Pilots Association said in a memo to Delta aviators Monday.

In late October, Delta pilots voted overwhelmingly to authorize a potential strike if contract talks don't lead to an agreement.

"The overwhelming approval of the strike authorization ballot sent a resounding message to management that the Delta pilots will go the distance in these negotiations," Capt. Jason Ambrosi, head of the pilots' union, said in a statement.

Some major issues are still pending, such as compensation and retirement packages, the union said, but it was upbeat.

The union said it is "entirely possible" that a full agreement in principle may be reached at an upcoming session. But it said that will require management "to continue to show the motivation that resulted in progress this past week."

Delta declined to comment.

Other labor groups are still in talks. Off-duty United pilots on Tuesday plan to demonstrate at the carrier's Denver flight training center, while American Airlines' flight attendants around the U.S. also plan to picket for a new contract.