Airline Pilots Threaten Walkout Ahead Of Holiday Season

A worst-case scenario is lining up for the U.S. airline industry as pilots from several major carriers are threatening to walk out just before the busy holiday season.

Delta Airlines pilots have authorized a strike while those with United Airlines balked at a contract agreement on Wednesday. Negotiations continue for American Airlines to try to stave off a crippling work stoppage at the most crucial time.

Airlines continue to cope with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government actions that ensued. A work stoppage at this point could have even worse implications for the industry.

Before a strike takes place, however, the pilots must have the approval of the National Mediation Board. The group could force negotiations to restart if there is believed to be a chance of an agreement.

There are wide disparities in the statuses of negotiations between pilots and the airline industry. Some appear poised to reach an agreement as both sides express their desire to avoid a strike.

United Airlines pilots announced this week they will begin picketing, and Delta’s nearly unanimously agreed. One Delta pilot, Captain Evan Baach, emphasized that he and his colleagues are “ready and willing to strike.”

He said the company’s pilots strove during the pandemic “to get our customers safely to their destinations” and continue to “work hard to this day.”

However, pilots across the industry report frustration both with compensation and the current workload that sees them logging record overtime.

Delta’s management asserted that the airline is “confident” that an agreement will be reached that is “fair and equitable” to both sides. Meanwhile, experts predict the biggest holiday crush for the industry since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The summer offered a mixed bag of results for U.S. airlines, as the number of travelers broke records even as staffing shortages and weather problems created havoc.

Major carriers have already slashed flight schedules to have personnel standing by and planes ready in the event of a strike. With the holiday travel season just weeks away and the weather always uncertain, the hope is to avoid the issues that plagued travelers during the summer.