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Is air travel going to get even MORE expensive?

Date: March 4, 2023

Is air travel going to get even MORE expensive? Delta agrees 34% pay rise for pilots - worth up to $90k - with other major airlines set to follow suit


PUBLISHED, 1 March 2023

Pilots at Delta Air Lines easily approved a new contract that will raise their pay by more than 30 percent over four years and likely lead to similar agreements covering union pilots at other major US airlines.

The Air Line Pilots Association said 78 percent of Delta's 15,000 pilots voted to support the contract which will lead to a cumulative $7 billion in pay raises.

Delta pilots currently make between $66,853.80 per year to $257,657.40 per year, according to aviationinterviews.com. The pay raise can increase salaries to between $89,584.10 and $345,260.92.

The ratification comes after picketing by pilots last summer and about six months after Delta pilots voted to authorize a strike.

'This industry-leading contract is the direct result of the Delta pilots´ unity and resolve,' said Darren Hartmann, a pilot and union official.

A spokesperson for Delta Air lines wasn't immediately available to answer how the raises will impact customers and ticket prices. During negotiations in December, they refused to elaborate on the potential of raised airfare. 

Smaller airlines face a shortage of pilots as major airlines recruit from their ranks.

While the biggest carriers say they have enough pilots, the shortage has given unions leverage to bargain for rich pay increases.

John Laughter, the Atlanta-based airline's chief of operations, said the contract 'recognizes our pilots´ contributions to Delta.' He said the airline set out to reach a deal that keeps Delta as a top destination for aviation employees.

The contract takes effect Thursday and runs through 2026 when it can be amended - by federal law, union contracts in the airline industry do not expire.

American Airlines claimed their competitor's raise deal 'profoundly' impacts the whole airline industry economically, according to Reuters.

In June, off-duty Delta Air lines pilots started to demand an increase in pay and better schedules amid thousands of flight cancellations. Several picketed at LAX, JFK and Atlanta airport.

At the time, The Air Line Pilots Association claimed nearly 14,000 members were working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips. 

Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue.

The last time Delta pilots negotiated a new contract was in 2016, according to Jason Ambrosi, a Delta pilot and union official

While it is unclear if the raises will increase airfare prices, last year the renewed travel demand hiked the average ticket price around the holidays.

Thanksgiving flights were poised to cost $468 on average this year, 50 percent more than last year and 30 percent more than in 2019. 

Christmas flights proved to be more expensive at an average of $574, up 20 percent from last year and 50 percent more than before the pandemic.

The price increase came as airlines are reported strong fiscal quarters and revenue after receiving $54 billion in taxpayer money to stay afloat during the pandemic. 

Delta airlines revealed it earned a whopping $695 million profit for the third quarter last year despite having one of the most difficult summer travel seasons in history as Americans traveled at near pre-pandemic levels.

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