Delta gets closer to labor deal with pilots, union says

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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.

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.

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