Delta pilots give backing for strike action in ongoing pay talks

Jay Fog /

Pilots at Delta Air Lines have given their backing to union leaders to call a strike if a deal can’t be reached for a new contract.  

Their union, the Air Line Pilots’ association (ALPA) said a contract was long overdue, noting that the current pay rates and benefits were negotiated back in 2016.  

“Today, Delta’s nearly 15,000 pilots sent a clear message to management that we are willing to go the distance to secure a contract that reflects the value we bring to Delta Air Lines as frontline leaders and long-term stakeholders,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council, in an ALPA statement on October 31, 2022. 

ALPA said over 96% of members participated in the strike authorization ballot, with 99% giving their backing to union leaders to take strike action if necessary.   

Many major US carriers are currently negotiating pilot contracts, with a shortage of qualified crews helping to drive up pay demands.  

For example, American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) has offered its pilots a new contract that includes a 19% pay increase over two years.  


How long have the negotiations been going? 

ALPA noted that Delta has rebounded from the pandemic, achieving record revenue for the third quarter.  

“Meanwhile, our negotiations have dragged on for too long,” Ambrosi said. “Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. 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.” 

Talks for a new contract at Delta had initially started in April 2019. An agreement wasn’t reached, and mediation started in February 2020. However, that was paused for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with mediated talks resuming in January 2022.   

Before Delta pilots can strike, however, the National Mediation Board must first rule that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and offer arbitration. If either side declines, a 30-day “cooling off” period starts and only then can the union go on strike.  

With staff shortages across the aviation industry globally, there have already been several strikes as part of pay negotiations in summer 2023. German airline group Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) has seen strikes by both ground crews and flight crew, while air traffic controllers in France have also launched industrial action.  


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