Pilots at Delta Air Lines approved a new contract that would increase wages 34 percent by 2026 and make quality-of-life improvements, raising the standard for contract negotiations underway at other large U.S. airlines.
Voting was conducted during the month of February, with 78 percent of pilots approving the new contract, according to the union that represents them, the Delta Master Executive Council. The raises are valued at more than $7 billion over four years, the union said.
The agreement’s strong wage provisions are a reflection of a critical shortage of pilots in the United States and the strong recovery in demand for air travel. Airlines have been hiring thousands of pilots since bookings began picking up in 2021 after the pandemic gutted travel in early 2020. Many airlines offered early retirements and buyout packages to pilots and other employees during the height of the pandemic, thinking demand would recover slowly. They were left short staffed when business picked up much more quickly.
“This industry-leading contract is the direct result of the Delta pilots’ unity and resolve,” said Capt. Darren Hartmann, the chairman of the union. “Despite a two-year delay in negotiations due to Covid, we never lost sight of our goal to obtain significant across-the-board enhancements to our Pilot Working Agreement.”
The airline’s 15,000 pilots also overwhelmingly approved a separate agreement intended to protect the number of the high-paying positions piloting international flights. That agreement, approved by 90 percent of those who voted, would require Delta to add new international flying jobs whenever it sells more flights operated by foreign airlines that it has partnerships with.
The new contract is widely expected to influence pilot negotiations at American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.
About 96 percent of Delta’s eligible pilots cast a ballot. The contract will go into effect on Thursday and run through 2026.