Pilot Contract Impasse Could be Perfect Storm for Big Three Airlines

Pilot Contract Impasse Could be Perfect Storm for Big Three Airlines

Commercial passenger aircraft pilots in the cockpit. (photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus/AlexeyPetrov)

The Big Three U.S. airlines are all having simultaneous big problems in trying to come to contract terms with their respective pilots’ unions.

American, Delta, and United each have their own issues as the demand for air travel continues to surge, with some fearing a perfect storm could develop if any one of them – or all – follow through on threats to strike.

Earlier this week, American’s pilots reportedly rejected the latest contract offer after apparently coming to terms just days before. The proposed deal by American management would have given the pilots a 19 percent pay increase over two years but union leaders for the Allied Pilots Association (APA) had repeatedly said they would not accept any offer below a 20 percent increase.

Also earlier this week, pilots at Delta voted to authorize a strike as contract talks between its union and the airline continue to erode. Contract talks, stalled by the pandemic, are at an impasse.

“Meanwhile, our negotiations have dragged on for too long. Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike,” Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta master executive council of the Air Line Pilots Association, said. “The ball is in management’s court. It’s time for the company to get serious at the bargaining table and invest in the Delta pilots.”

At United, pilots also rejected a contract offer. The Washington Post reported that almost 10,000 United pilots turned down what would have been a 14.5 percent pay increase by a whopping margin of 94 percent voting no on the proposal.

“By the company’s own admission, this agreement missed the mark,” Mike Hamilton, chair of United’s Master Executive Council, said in a statement to the Post. “That’s why both parties agreed to reengage at the bargaining table for a new, improved agreement.”

While nothing is imminent for Thanksgiving travel – federal labor law mandates a 30-day cooling-off period before a strike can take place – there is some concern that Christmas could be impacted.

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