Airlines Face Strikes As Holidays Approach; Industry Still In Post-Lockdown Recovery Mode

Several U.S. airlines face potential strikes as they continue negotiating with pilots while simultaneously dealing with the financial difficulties stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta Airlines pilots authorized a strike this week and United Airlines rejected a contract agreement on Wednesday, increasing the probability of a second strike coming to fruition. American Airlines remains in negotiations.

A strike is only permitted if pilots receive approval from the National Mediation Board, which may demand renewed negotiations if they believe a resolution is feasible. If either party refuses arbitration, there must be a 30-day wait period before a strike or lockout may commence.

Airlines were subject to strict government regulations during the pandemic, causing widespread financial hardship throughout the industry. For example, American Airlines posted a profit in the second quarter of 2022, their first quarter in the black since the start of the pandemic nearly two years prior.

Both parties involved in the United Airlines dispute appear determined to resolve the problem without a strike.

“By the Company’s own admission, this agreement missed the mark,” United Master Executive Council chair Capt. Mike Hamilton told KARE 11. “

“That’s why both parties agreed to reengage at the bargaining table for a new, improved agreement. It is vital United management recognizes that an industry-leading contract is required to hire, train, and retain the best pilots in the world for the United Next growth plan to succeed.”

There’s less optimism surrounding the Delta situation, with pilots for the airline taking a much more confrontational tone.

After highlighting the fact that Delta is posting historic third-quarter numbers and asserting that the airline is “stronger than ever,” Executive Council chair Capt. Jason Ambrosi put the responsibility on the airline, not the pilots, to resolve the dispute.

“Our negotiations have dragged on for too long. Our goal is to reach an agreement, not to strike. The ball is in management’s court. It’s time for the Company to get serious at the bargaining table and invest in the Delta pilots.”