Long queue of pilots is seen walking through the world’s busiest airport

Dozens of pilots from the North American Delta Air Lines, one of the largest airlines in the world, represented by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), carry out informational pickets at Delta’s hubs (large flight centers) throughout the United States in last Thursday, June 30, to protest the protracted contract negotiations.

According to ALPA, the pilots last signed a new employment contract in 2016 and thus are currently flying under negotiated work and wage rules for more than six years. Dozens of off-duty pilots took part in the pickets at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the busiest in the world.

Other crew groups also carried out the action at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC).

Contract negotiations were paused during the pandemic and resumed in January 2022 under the auspices of the National Mediation Council.

In addition to seeking improvements in pay, retirement and labor protections, the union is also demanding changes to pilot schedules. In recent letters to Delta customers and the Delta Board of Directors, ALPA pointed out avoidable management mistakes that could have mitigated ongoing flight disruptions.

“Delta pilots have been frontline leaders during COVID and the recovery. We helped our airline recover by flying record overtime hours and spending more time away from our families than ever before to get our customers safely to their destinations. It’s time for management to recognize our contributions. If Delta can invest billions in foreign airlines and their subsidiaries, it must invest equally in its pilots,” said Commander Jason Ambrosi, Chairman of Delta’s Master Executive Council (MEC) at ALPA.

“This is an important milestone for Delta pilots,” said Ambrosi. “It’s been two and a half years since our contract was amended and three and a half years since Delta pilots got a pay raise. Meanwhile, our quality of life has declined due to management’s unwillingness to run the airline properly.”

In June, Delta ALPA MEC took an unprecedented step by passing a vote of “no confidence” regarding the management teams of Delta’s Flight Operations, Crew Resources and Training, and Flight Standards departments due to scheduling issues that continue to plague customers and pilots. Delta canceled more flights than any other major airline over Memorial Day weekend.

“We are entering the Independence Day holiday weekend and we are concerned that our customers’ plans have already been disrupted yet again,” added Ambrosi. “The perfect storm is raging. Demand is back, and riders are working record overtime, but we’re still seeing management cancelling, leaving our customers stranded and their vacation plans ruined. Unfortunately, this mismanagement continues. And it extends to a complete lack of urgency to resolve our issues at the negotiating table.”

Delta’s 13,900 pilots are represented by ALPA. Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest pilots union in the world, representing more than 65,000 pilots across 40 airlines in the United States and Canada.

ALPA information

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