United Airlines is offering its pilots a contract that will add more than $8 billion in costs over the span of four years — the richest deal ever for the US airline.
United CEO Scott Kirby told Bloomberg on Monday that the mainline US carrier, which employs about 14,000 pilots, is negotiating weekly as it aims to reach an agreement with the union.
Kirby didn’t specify the value of the pay or what benefits and quality-of-life improvements pilots would get with the new contract, the outlet reported.
He did, however, say: “We have a deal on the table that would be industry-leading,” nodding to enhanced employment contracts recently rolled out by rival Delta.
In December, Delta Air Lines’ proposed pilot contract included a 34% cumulative pay increase to pilots over three years.
When the deal was approved in March, Delta added incremental value to the tune of $7 billion.
The Atlanta-based airline’s 15,000 pilots immediately received an 18% pay increase and they can expect a 5% pay bump in 2024 and two 4% pay increases in the two years that follow, according to Delta’s February SEC filing.
The Delta deal certainly put pressure on rivals to hand out similar contracts ahead of the summer travel season, especially as the travel market continues to boom.
Last month, American Airlines also reached a tentative agreement to add $8 billion in costs with increased pilot pay.
United, which operates about 4,500 flights daily to more than 300 destinations across five continents, is working with its union to get the new contract approved.
The aeronauts picketed last month to speed up talks of giving them a raise after they worked without a pay bump for more than four years.
As a negotiation tactic on the proposed $8 billion deal, United pilots are set to vote on whether to authorize a strike, Bloomberg reported.
Federal law makes it very difficult for unions to conduct strikes in the airline industry, and the last walkout at a US carrier was more than a decade ago.
The top scale at United for a captain is $369 an hour on two-aisle planes, called “widebodies,” which are generally used on international flights, and $297 an hour on “narrowbodies” such as Boeing 737s. Airline pilots fly an average of 75 hours per month, according to the Labor Department.
Despite the uncertainty, this summer is expected to be a record-breaking travel season.
High demand has caused a 17.7% increase in airfare from March 2022 to this March, according to data released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index.
However, having to pay nearly 20% more for flights this summer doesn’t seem to be deterring globetrotters.
According to The Vacationer’s Summer Travel Survey, which polled over 1,000 American in early March, nearly 85% are intending to travel this summer — 40.71% one time and 44.05% more than once.
Based on the most recent census, the figure means nearly 219 million American adults intend to travel this summer, The Vacationer reported — 5% more than the 2022 survey showed.