Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


United Pilots Approve Contract with 40% Wage Increases

9 months ago

Pilots at United Airlines have ratified a new contract with up to 40% pay increases.

The four-year accord, worth roughly $10 billion over its term, was approved by 82% of United’s more than 16,000 pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association said Friday. Ninety-seven percent of pilots voted on the pact.

“I’m happy to give them a great contract that ensures we can continue the United Next growth that is creating great careers for everyone here at United Airlines,” said Scott Kirby, CEO of the Chicago-based carrier, on LinkedIn Friday.

United Airlines Airbus plane
Pilots at United have ratified a new four-year accord worth some $10 billion. (BOSSHEP/Flickr)

Pilots at United are the last of the Big Three U.S. carriers to ratify a new contract. Cockpit crew members at American Airlines approved a new agreement in August, and pilots at Delta Air Lines in March. All three accords have snap up clauses that make pilot pay rates equal among the carriers.

While deals give airlines stability with their pilots, flight attendants at at least American, Southwest Airlines, and United remain locked in contentious negotiations. And cabin crew members at American have approved a strike if their union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), cannot reach a mediated deal with the airline.

The new pilot deals at the Big Three, while lucrative for staff, are also driving up costs at the airlines amid increased questions over the travel demand outlook. Neither American, Delta, nor United have reported any worsening but some of their budget competitors, including Breeze Airways, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines have.

The winter is the period of the lowest travel demand for the major U.S. airlines.


Delta Pilots Approve New Contract With Big Raises by Wide Margin

1 year ago

Pilots at Delta Air Lines overwhelmingly approved a new accord with up to 34 percent pay increases on Wednesday.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents the more than 15,000 pilots at Atlanta-based Delta, said 78 percent of cockpit crew members that voted were in favor of the four-year contract. Roughly 96 percent of eligible Delta pilots voted. The deal includes roughly $7 billion in economic value for pilots, according to the union.

John Laughter, Delta’s chief of operations, said the agreement “recognizes our pilots’ contributions.”

delta air lines pilot on the ramp labor pay source delta

Ratification of Delta’s new accord ups the pressure on other major U.S. airlines to reach similar agreements. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines are all in negotiations over new contacts with their respective pilot unions.

The agreement also represents a steep increase in costs for Delta, which already faces higher expenses this year than it did before the pandemic. In January, executives estimated that the pilot accord would add as much as 3 percentage points to how much it costs the airline to fly a seat one mile, or what are known as costs per available seat mile, excluding fuel. Delta’s guidance indicates that the metric could be up 23-25 percent in the first quarter compared to 2019.

Updated with comment from Delta.

Ground Transport

Ex-Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza Thinks Electric Planes Face Huge Commercial Challenges

2 years ago

The future commercial use of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, or eVTOLs, will be “highly challenging,” according to former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza, who’s a fan of the technology’s potential, but thinks industrial and military applications would take place first.

The Archer Aviation Maker aircraft on its first flight in December 2021.

Baldanza, writing in Forbes about these helicopter-like electric vehicles, said they indeed face tech challenges regarding battery life, the intent to operate in congested areas, a lack of trained pilots, and the costs would preclude eVTOLs becoming a popular transportation alternative anytime soon.

Instead of carrying passengers, these electric flying vehicles would likely first see their initial applicability in carrying cargo and transporting packages, Baldanza wrote.

Transporting equipment during battles may also be an initial preferred use for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, he wrote.

“Timing of flights likely would not conflict as much with other airspace uses, and utilization can be improved,” Baldanza wrote. “Also, industrial and military uses won’t be especially helpful in only the biggest metro areas, meaning that some issues will be easier to work out. This makes sense, and this eVTOL equipment will compete with smaller drones for some operations.”

Special purpose acquisition company mergers have been a popular funding mechanism for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, Baldanza wrote, “even though revenue streams may be many years away.”

And Baldanza, who pioneered everything from charging for boarding passes to overhead bin space during his 11 years (2005 to 2016) as CEO of Spirit, knows a few things about revenue streams.



A Flight Attendant’s Tips for Travelers Reveal a Lot About the Industry Too

2 years ago

Are flight crews sometimes the last to know about cancellations?

Veteran flight attendant Kristie Koerbel’s tips for travelers on navigating the current travel chaos and cancellations, as published in The New York Times, also had some interesting tidbits about the airline industry as a business.

Shown here, a Delta flight attendant offers complimentary welcome Bellini cocktails in November 2019 for an inaugural flight. Delta Air Lines

Koerbel wrote that it is wise to download the app of the airline you are flying — or trying to fly, that is — because “in some cases you will know a flight is canceled before the flight crew even knows.” She also said travelers can use the app to track bags, the whereabouts of the incoming flight, and to rebook.

Another interesting factoid? Here’s why you will be chilled flying in short-sleeves.

“Here is a flight attendant secret: We sometimes keep the airplane cold intentionally. For people who struggle with airsickness, heat makes it worse. We don’t want anyone to use those sick sacks,” Koerbel wrote.

Koerbel tied some of the spate of flight cancellations to a fact that many people in the travel industry already know — there are time limits to how long flight crews can work.

“Something that is not common knowledge is that flight crews have time limits on how long they can work, generally 12 to 16 hours at a stretch,” Koerbel wrote. “Besides being unsafe, it’s illegal for us to fly longer than that. If your flight crew gets delayed and hits that time, it doesn’t matter if you have somewhere to be, we are done when we are done. The way things are right now, there aren’t many back up crews, so your flight may be canceled.”

The labor shortage at airlines and airports isn’t all about flight attendants and pilots.

“Now we are short-staffed and overworked,” she wrote. “Not just pilots and flight attendants, but also ground crews. You may not think about ground crews, but without them there is no one to park the planes, drive the jet bridges so you can board and get off, load your bags and retrieve them, or scan boarding passes.”

All of those airline buyouts or staff cuts during the pandemic have come home to roost, so to speak, as workers bolted to leave the airline industry. When Amazon and Uber offer comparable compensation to low-paid ground crews, the airline industry has a problem.


American Airlines Pitches up to $64,000 Pay Raise to Pilots

2 years ago

American Airlines proposed a 16.9 percent pay raise to pilots in a contract offer to the Allied Pilots Association (APA) union, CEO Robert Isom said Thursday.

The raise would bring pay for pilots at American in line with rates for their counterparts at United Airlines, Isom said in a video message that was first reported by CNBC and independently confirmed by Skift. The two-year contract proposal, which would replace an agreement that became amendable in January 2020, also includes increases in per diem and training pay.

(Brandon Wade/American Airlines)

Based on American’s math, a captain flying narrow-body jets, like the Airbus A321 or Boeing 737-8, would earn up to $340,000 a year and one flying wide-body aircraft, like the Boeing 777 and 787, up to $425,000 a year, Isom said. That represents annual increases of up to $45,000 and $64,000, respectively.

The offer comes days after pilots at United began voting on a tentative accord that would give them a headline 14.5 percent raise over two years. However, the net increase would only be 9.5 percent after 5 percent that was previously promised. Skift understands that some pilots oppose the deal over what they view as a “substandard” raise, and concerns over quality of life issues.

Pilots at American’s regional affiliates Envoy, Piedmont Airlines, and PSA Airlines all received significant pay increases earlier in June that brought starting rates to the same level, $90 an hour, as their counterparts at American.

American is offering the APA and pilots “incentives” to ratify a new agreement by September 30. The union has yet to agree to the proposal.


United Airlines Pilots to Get Nearly 15 Percent Pay Raise

2 years ago

Pilots at United Airlines could get a big raise if they ratify a new contract approved by leadership at their union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

Pay increases would total 14.5 percent over 18 months with the improvements backdated to January 1, as well as other overtime pay and quality of life improvements, ALPA said Friday. The two-year accord also includes eight weeks paid maternity leave but has no mention of paternity leave for a pilot ranks that is still overwhelmingly male. Voting will conclude on July 15.

united pilots november 2020 source united
(United Airlines)

The contract comes as many smaller U.S. airlines face a shortage of pilots. United, and other mainline carriers like American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, say they do not face hiring issues but the situation is pressuring their regional affiliates. United affiliate SkyWest Airlines recently unveiled a plan to launch a new airline, SkyWest Charter, to expand the pool of pilots in order to continue flying to smaller cities.

The contract follows a tentative agreement between ALPA and United in May.


United Airlines And Pilots Union Reach Tentative Agreement

2 years ago

United Airlines and its pilots union, the Air Lines Pilot Association (ALPA), reached an agreement in principal on a new contract Friday. The deal is the first among the three largest U.S. airlines, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, and their pilots, all of which have open contracts.

“United and Air Line Pilots Association share a goal of making United the biggest and the best airline in the history of aviation — and that shared purpose is why we are uniquely able to get deals done,” United CEO Scott Kirby in a post on LinkedIn.

Details of the accord were not released. However, past contracts have included wage increases and other work rule changes. A typically hot topic, the number of regional jets flown by United Express affiliates, is not expected to change with this agreement amid the staffing issues following the pandemic.

Before the agreement can go to pilots for a ratification vote, ALPA must finalize the language of the agreement and the master executive council of its United chapter approve the accord. This process typically takes at least several weeks.

United Master Executive Council Chair Captain Michael Hamilton said in a statement that the agreement “recognizes our contributions to the current and future success of United Airlines.”