Hundreds of off-duty Delta Airlines pilots are planning to picket this week to demand an increase in pay and better schedules – as another 500 flights are axed today.
The Air Line Pilots Association claimed last night its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as airlines cancel thousands of trips.
Delta Airlines pilots plan to start picketing on Thursday at several major airports including LAX, JFK and Atlanta, which are some of the most affected in terms of cancellations and delays.
The announcement comes amidst a rise in flight cancellations and delays. On Tuesday morning, airlines had already cancelled over 500 flights and delayed another 1,200, according to FlightAware.
The average Delta Pilot yearly pay in the United States is approximately $157,912, which is 119 percent above the national average, according to Indeed.
Passengers line up to check in before their flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. June 28, 2022 as airports see an increase in cancellations and delays
This graphic shows how many flights have been cancelled in recent days at US airports
FlightAware’s Misery Map shows cancellations and delays by airport on June 28, 2022
Pilots have complained that thinly staffed airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue.
The FAA has admitted it is understaffed, especially in an important air control center in Florida, which has meant a decrease in the quality of service and an increase in delays and cancellations.
The pilots plan to picket, not strike, on the days they are not scheduled to work in order to bring attention to the issues.
Federal law creates a long and difficult process before airline workers can legally go on strike.
‘The Delta pilots last signed a new contract in 2016 and are currently flying under work rules and pay rates negotiated over six years ago,’ said Jason Ambrosi, a Delta pilot and union official, in the statement.
‘It’s been two-and-a-half-years since our contract became amendable and three-and-a-half years since the Delta pilots last had a pay raise. Meanwhile, our quality of life has eroded due to management’s unwillingness to schedule the airline properly,’ he continued.
‘In June, the union took an unprecedented step in passing a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the management teams of Flight Operations, Crew Resources, and Flight Training & Standards for the scheduling issues that continue to plague both customers and pilots.’
‘As long-term stakeholders in our airline, seeing our operational reliability suffer is bad business and puts the Delta brand at risk,’ Ambrosi said.
The planned protest comes just before July 4 weekend, which is expected to see 3.5 million Americans fly according to AAA. Ambrosi says the union is ‘concerned that our customers’ plans will be disrupted once again.’
‘The perfect storm is occurring. Demand is back and pilots are flying record amounts of overtime but are still seeing our customers being stranded and their holiday plans ruined,’ Ambrosi said.
‘When delays or cancellations happen, the pilots share in our passengers’ frustration,’ he continued.
‘Our goal is to achieve an industry-leading contract. But if management doesn’t get serious, we’ll go the distance to get the contract we deserve,’ he concluded.
Delays and cancellations cost airlines a hefty sum, with delays costing airlines around $74 a minute, or $4,500 an hour.
Defying tarmac delay rules means airlines are charged $27,500 per passenger, meaning one plane with 200 passengers could cost a $5.5million fine.
For passengers, delays can cost about $47 of their time. In 2018, before the pandemic, delays and cancellations cost passengers almost $28 billion.
Airlines are not required by law to compensate passengers for a cancellation or delay.
Passengers have taken to social media to complain about how the delays and cancellations affected them, with many claiming they are ‘nervous to fly.’
After the coronavirus pandemic halted the airline industry, pilots played a major role in getting airlines back up and running, though their pay has not increased since negotiations in 2016.
U.S. consumers lodged more than triple the number of complaints against U.S. airlines in April, compared with pre-pandemic levels, as on-time arrivals fell, according to a report by the Department of Transportation.
Earlier this month, Secretary of Transport Pete Buttigieg called a virtual meeting with the chief executives of major U.S. airlines to discuss thousands of recent flight cancellations and delays over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
He urged airlines to ensure they can reliably operate planned summer schedules.
Airlines for America, which represents the largest U.S. carriers, said Friday it wants to know FAA’s staffing plans for the July Fourth holiday weekend, ‘so we can plan accordingly.’
The comments from the industry group could serve as a pre-emptive defense in case airlines again suffer thousands of canceled and delayed flights over the holiday weekend, when travel is expected to set new pandemic-era highs.
‘The industry is actively and nimbly doing everything possible to create a positive customer experience since it is in an airline’s inherent interest to keep customers happy, so they return for future business,’ Nicholas Calio, president of the trade group, said in a letter to Buttigieg.