Possible pilot strikes coincide with busy holiday travel season

U.S. airlines will have to pay more than they expected to reach new contracts with pilots, who are using the leverage of a pilot shortage and rising travel demand to seek significant wage increases.

Pilots at Delta Air Lines already voted to authorize union leaders to call a strike, and it could be the first one for the airline in 37 years. 

At this point, the odds are that there won't be a pilot strike before Thanksgiving.

Some experts believe the Christmas travel season will be the biggest, including recent pre-pandemic years.

Yet, still short of personnel, many U.S. airlines have downsized their flight schedules to make sure they will have enough planes and staff to handle holiday travel amid possible pilot strikes.

"Our goal is not a strike. Our goal is an industry-leading contract, but we are ready and willing to strike today," said Captain Evan Bach, Delta pilot and with the Airline Pilots Association.

American Airlines pilots rejected a 12% raise proposal. United Pilots turned down a proposed 15% raise. Delta's 15,000 pilots, whose last compensation package was in 2016, rejected a 19% raise as Delta just reported record third quarter profits.

Pilots for the major airlines want more, especially in light of a 20% pilot pay increase at Alaska Airlines just last month.

The Airline Pilots Association said in a statement: "It’s way past time for the CEOs of these companies to recognize our contributions when they come to the bargaining table.Like passengers, pilots have had enough."

Gabe Saglie, communications manager for travel deals website TravelZoo, said,"History shows that at the end of the day, negotiations always prevail. Predominantly, both sides of the equation want to keep things steady, don't want to upset the consumer and want to keep things flowing."

In fact, there have been only two airline strikes in U.S, history; one in 1985 and another in 1932.