Pilots at Delta Air Lines have voted overwhelmingly in favor of strike action due to a dispute over pay and benefits. Around 15,000 Delta crew members are part of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which presented the first striking authorization ballot to Delta pilots since 2006.
A massive 99% of Delta pilots voted in approval, which, if it goes ahead, could cause enormous disruption to the airline’s operations.
The dispute goes back to 2019 when pilots began demanding improvements in pay which they hadn’t seen since 2016. A vote on strike action was initially planned to take place in 2020, although it was pushed back by two years due to disruption caused by the COVID pandemic.
However, ALPA has made it clear that its members only see strike action as a last resort, and their main aim is to reach an agreement with Delta over an improved employment package.
“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 Jason Ambrosi, chair of the Delta Master Executive Council. “Delta has rebounded from the pandemic and is poised to be stronger than ever, posting record revenues for the third quarter. Meanwhile, our negotiations have dragged on for too long. Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike.”
Although Delta’s pilots have voted to strike, it is important to note that this doesn’t mean they will. The ball is now in Delta’s court, which will need to return to the table with an improved offer for its pilots. If no agreement is met, a 30-day cooling-off period will be triggered, after which pilots at Delta will legally be allowed to go on strike.
Delta quickly reassured passengers that a major strike was not on the horizon, telling CNN, “Delta pilots are not on strike, so this authorization vote will not affect our operations for our customers.”
“Delta and ALPA have made significant progress in our negotiations and have only a few contract sections left to resolve. We are confident that the parties will reach an agreement that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations.”
Delta is one of many major U.S. airlines threatened with strike action by their pilots. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines have all seen some of their pilots picketing at major airports in recent months. At the same time, pilots at Alaska Airlines also agreed to authorize potential strike action earlier this year over a contract dispute.