Delta Air Lines pilots are seeking a 40% pay hike

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines pilots are asking for a 40% pay increase over the next three years.

While a 40% pay hike seems high, keep in mind that it would only bring the pilots’ pay back to 2004 levels.

When Delta filed for bankruptcy pilots at the time agreed to take steep pay cuts to keep the carrier out of a second bankruptcy. Pilot pension benefits were also reduced.

The union, which represents 13,000 pilots, argues that Delta can afford the raises since it posted record profits last year.

“We do recognize the laws of economics. We are aware of the tailwinds helping profitability, such as low fuel costs,” said John Malone, the head of the Air Lines Pilots Association unit at Delta.

He claims that even if oil prices double, the wages are still sustainable for Delta.

Starting first officers at Delta currently earn an average of $68,000 in base pay while the most senior captains earn about $261,000.

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Comparable pilots at Delta earn less than pilots in the same positions with the same veteran status at United and American.

Delta, however, has the best profit sharing program in the industry, which added nearly $40,000 to every pilot’s pay last year.

On Thursday the union will ask federal mediators to join the negotiations.

The union and Delta management reached a deal last year, only to have rank and file pilots reject the deal. The pilots didn’t like that their increase in pay from that deal was part of a program that would cut 22% of their profit sharing.

Delta management said, “We are prepared to reach an industry-leading agreement; however, any agreement has to be sustainable and market-based.”

Delta pilots have an average base pay of $185,000, according to the airline. Pilots at Southwest earn $190,000 while American pilots earn on average $205,000 and United pilots take home an average of $209,000.

Written by John Howard

John Howard

John Howard is the Business Editor at He is an avid watcher of markets, a wallflower of retail, and a fan of disruptive businesses that utilize technology and unique ideas to form brilliant new ways of doing business.