United reaches preliminary, 4-year labor deal with pilots, with up to 40% raises

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Pilots from United Airlines walk inside the airport as they take part in an informational picket at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, May 12, 2023.

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

United Airlines and its pilots’ union have agreed to a preliminary labor deal that includes pay increases of as much as 40.2% over four years, ending months of tense negotiations and airport pickets. The deal makes United’s aviators the latest from a major airline to reach an agreement for higher wages amid the post-pandemic travel boom.

The preliminary deal, which the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced Saturday, comes months after Delta Air Lines pilots ratified a new contract that included 34% raises over four years, the first of the top four airlines to reach a new agreement. American Airlines and its pilots’ union reached a new labor deal with 40% raises over four years, though it still faces a ratification vote by members.

The pandemic paused contract negotiations across the industry but workers have been pushing for higher pay and better working conditions since travel demand returned and talks resumed.

ALPA said the tentative deal is worth about $10 billion. It includes a host of other improvements including overtime pay, holiday pay and scheduling. Cumulative pay increases range from 34.5% to 40.2% based on the type of aircraft a pilot flies.

The agreement in principle won’t be finalized until it’s ratified by the company’s 16,000 pilots.

“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,” United CEO Scott Kirby said in a LinkedIn post. “The four-year agreement, once ratified, will deliver a meaningful pay raise and quality of life improvements for our pilots while putting the airline on track to achieve the incredible potential of our United Next strategy.”

The pilots overwhelmingly rejected a preliminary, 18-month deal last year.

United is scheduled to report second-quarter earnings after the market closes Wednesday, and executives are likely to face questions about the cost of the deal during a conference call the next day.

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