Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots voted on Wednesday to approve a 14 percent pay cut in a deal their union worked out with management to help the bankrupt carrier cope with an expected cash crunch.
It's the second double-digit pay cut the airline pilots have accepted in 13 months.
Delta and the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents the Atlanta-based company's 6,000 pilots, will now try to hammer out a comprehensive agreement by March. If not, the sides have agreed to let the decision be made by a three-person arbitration panel.
"Given the critical nature of our financial situation, this provides much needed financial relief while we seek to reach a comprehensive agreement with ALPA," Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein said in a prepared statement.
Before the two sides reached the tentative agreement, the union had threatened to call a strike if the pilot contract was thrown out.
Rank-and-file pilots will see their average salary of roughly $170,000 reduced to about $146,000. The pilots also would give up other pilot pay and cost items equal to an additional 1 percent hourly wage reduction.
The agreement, which the airline said would save $143 million, adds to the $1 billion in annual concessions Delta pilots agreed to in a five-year deal reached in 2004. That deal, which was meant to keep the cash-strapped airline out of bankruptcy, included a 32.5 percent pay cut.
When Delta filed for bankruptcy, it
"Did they pull the plug on us in a way that I just think is despicable? Absolutely," Gray said.
Delta, which has lost more than $11 billion and cut more than 20,000 jobs over the last five years, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York on Sept. 14. Last week, it asked the court for a six-month extension to exclusively file its $3 billion reorganization plan, which is due Jan. 12.