ATLANTA (CW69 News at 10) -- Pilots for Delta Air Lines picketed in the carrier's home of Atlanta as well as at airports nationwide on Thursday, protesting the gridlock of their contract negotiations, as the airline battles ongoing staffing shortages and flight cancellations. Pilots have taken an unprecedented step in pressuring management for changes.
Delta travelers weighed in on the pilots who could be seen demonstrating outside of the South Terminal of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
"They need to be focused on the people who have our lives in their hands," said one traveler, Grettel Bromfield. "They should be paid better."
Four hundred off-duty Delta pilots in Atlanta joined more than 1,200 pilots nationwide protesting to demand a new contract.
"They're out there overscheduling to try to grab every amount of revenue that they can, understandably. However, it's pushing us to the breaking point," said Captain Jason Ambrosi, the chairman of the Delta Pilots Union. "The Delta pilots have flown tirelessly throughout the pandemic as front line leaders, carrying their passengers safely to their destination."
Pilots said the issues they are protesting include flying record amounts of overtime and being overworked and underpaid, under an outdated, six-year-old contract.
"They're urging Delta to be responsible in scheduling. Only schedule the amount of flying that we have pilots to fly," Ambrosi said.
According to the union, Delta canceled more flights than any other major airline over Memorial Day Weekend. In addition, pilots said they are concerned that more disruptions for travelers are in store for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Union representatives turned the heat up on Delta management through an unprecedented move of casting a "vote of no confidence" in the air carrier's board of directors.
In response to the pickets by pilots, Delta issued a statement through a spokesperson:
This informational exercise by some of our off-duty pilots will not disrupt our operation for our customers. Earlier this year, Delta, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and a representative from the National Mediation Board restarted our mediated contract negotiations that had been paused for almost two years due to the pandemic. Our goal remains to continue providing Delta pilots with an industry-leading overall contract with the best compensation based on pay, retirement, work rules, and profit sharing. We're also committed to making sure the contract language supports our ability to run a world-class operation, maintain a strong balance sheet, and invest in our business for our customers and employees alike.
Ambrosi said he is hopeful the pickets will prod Delta higher-ups to come to the bargaining table more earnestly.
"This visible solidarity today will move the needle at the table," Ambrosi said. "I'm confident that Delta management will see these many pilots out here and say, 'Wow, these guys are serious, and it's time to bargain in good faith.'"
There's no word on how long the negotiations will last, but Ambrosi says the protests will continue until the needle moves.
for more features.