United Airlines and its pilots reportedly reached a contract agreement over the weekend that is valued at $10 billion, and it would increase pay up to 40 percent over four years for those workers. According to The New York Times, it’s the second wage victory for pilots this year, following Delta’s contract approval in March.
These substantial raises are a reflection of the fact there’s a shortage of pilots – though you could say there’s a shortage of people willing to pay pilots – in the U.S. that is coinciding with a strong rebound in air travel demand following the pandemic. To go along with their higher pay rates, United has reportedly agreed to provide better job security, work rules, vacation, retirement, and other benefits, The Times reports.
Now, the union and management will complete the final language of the deal, according to the outlet. It must then be approved by a vote from pilots association members. That’s expected to happen in the next several weeks.
In a statement, the Chicago-based company reportedly said the deal would help in its “United Next” strategy. It’s an expansion plan that includes purchasing larger airplanes to increase the number of seats per flight in North America by almost 30 percent and the number of premium seats per flight by 75 percent by 2026.
“We promised our world-class pilots the industry-leading contract they deserve, and we’re pleased to have reached an agreement,” United’s chief executive, Scott Kirby wrote on LinkedIn.
According to the NYT, Union officials are equally happy with the agreement that was the result of four years of negotiations. They said it represented a “landmark” deal for the airline industry. The Air Line Pilots Association, which is the largest airline pilot union in the world, represents 74,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. It also includes about 16,000 United Airline pilots.
“The tireless dedication demonstrated by United pilots over the past several years ensured our solidarity, which was instrumental in achieving this historic agreement,” a representative for the United ALPA International, said in a statement reported by the outlet.
At large airlines like United, The Times reports that pilots can easily make six-figure salaries. The most senior pilots – who usually fly larger planes on international routes – can earn several hundred thousand dollars per year.
We do love a union.