United Airlines and its pilot union have come to an agreement in principle (AIP) on a new deal that includes pay raises of up to 40 percent over the next four years.
Airline management and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing United’s 16,000 pilots, reached the agreement Saturday after four years of negotiations.
Since 2019, pilots have been seeking a new contract that’s more in line with industry standards. A tentative deal came up last year but was overwhelmingly rejected by pilots due to what they said was substandard pay given the airline’s profitability.
According to ALPA, the latest agreement— estimated to be worth $10 billion—includes “substantial improvements to compensation, as well as advancements in quality of life, vacation, and other benefits.” If approved, pilots will receive pay raises ranging from 13.8 percent to 18.7 percent depending on aircraft type, followed by four smaller annual raises.
“The tireless dedication demonstrated by United pilots over the past several years ensured our solidarity which was instrumental in achieving this historic agreement,” said Capt. Garth Thompson, chair of the United ALPA Master Executive Council.
In a LinkedIn post, United CEO Scott Kirby wrote: “We promised our world-class pilots the industry-leading contract they deserve, and we’re pleased to have reached an agreement with ALPA on it.”
An ongoing pilot shortage and resurgence in post-pandemic travel has given pilot unions bargaining power in securing lucrative contracts. United’s tentative proposal now puts its pilots in line with counterpart Delta Air Lines, which also saw pilots receive considerable salary increases in their new contract.
Meanwhile, American Airlines is set to vote next week on an offer that includes average cumulative raises of 41.5 percent over the next four years. Southwest Airlines is still in the process of negotiations, while its union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said its members approved a strike mandate.
As more travelers are packing airports, carriers are seeing record profits. On Thursday, Delta reported a record quarterly profit of more than $1.8 billion. United is expected to share its results Wednesday and, according to a FactSet survey, analysts anticipate the airline to post a profit of more than $1.3 billion.
To keep pace with travel demand, airlines are seeking qualified professionals. Together, United, Delta, American, and Southwest are expected to hire roughly 8,000 pilots this year. And it’s not just mainline pilots reaping the benefits of an industry workforce shortage. Regional pilots are being lured with hefty compensation offers and retention bonuses as carriers struggle to compete for talent.
In the coming weeks, negotiators will continue to finalize language in the United agreement. Once completed, pilots will review and vote on ratification of the new contract.