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Delta pilots to picket amid surging flight cancellations

Nationwide flight disruptions
Nationwide flight cancellations wreak havoc for travelers 02:52

Hundreds of off-duty Delta Air Lines pilots plan to picket this week, demanding a pay increase and that the carrier change their schedules to reduce flight disruptions. 

The Air Line Pilots Association said in a statement Monday that its nearly 14,000 members are working longer hours even as the airlines cancel thousands of flights, angering customers. 

"When delays or cancellations happen, the pilots share in our passengers' frustration," said Jason Ambrosi, a union official and Delta pilot, said in the statement. "As long-term stakeholders in our airline, seeing our operational reliability suffer is bad business and puts the Delta brand at risk." 

"The perfect storm is occurring. Demand is back and pilots are flying record amounts of overtime but are still seeing our customers being stranded and their holiday plans ruined," he added.

Flight cancellations cause changes to summer plans 03:27

Pilots played a major role in helping Delta recoup its financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic, but their pay hasn't changed since 2016, the union said. The labor group is also asking for improvements in retirement benefits and job protections.

Labor protest won't affect service, Delta says

A Delta Air Lines spokesperson said the company and pilots began contract negotiations earlier this year after talks were halted for two years during the pandemic. The spokesperson noted that pilots plan to picket — not strike — on a day they're not scheduled to work. 

"This informational exercise by some of our off-duty pilots will not disrupt our operation for our customers," Delta said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch. "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."

The pilot protest is scheduled for Thursday, just before the busy July 4 holiday, at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Seattle and Salt Lake City, according to the union. 

More than 3.5 million Americans are expected to fly during the holiday weekend, according to estimates from AAA. It is the lowest share of people scheduled to travel by air for the July Fourth holiday since 2011, the auto club noted.

What to know before you buy travel insurance 04:56

Cancellations continued this weekend as airlines scrapped more than 850 flights on Sunday, according to tracking service FlightAware. Another 750 flights were canceled as of noon Eastern time on Monday, while more than 1,700 trips were delayed.

Delta has canceled more flights between June 16 and June 20 than it did all of last summer, according to CBS Evening News. Airlines have largely blamed this year's travel chaos on bad weather and a shortage of pilots, flight crew and other personnel. Carriers have also pointed at understaffing at the Federal Aviation Administration.

 The FAA has admitted that it is understaffed, particularly at a key air traffic control center in Florida.

CBS News senior travel adviser Peter Greenberg said airlines must staff up across their departments to improve service and reduce disruptions. 

The widespread flight cancellations have even ensnared U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. A flight Buttigieg was scheduled to take recently got canceled, forcing him to drive from Washington, D.C., to New York. The delay came a day after he met with airline industry leaders to exhort them to address operational issues. 

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