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The Delta Air Lines’ pilot union has reached an agreement that could see a massive shakeup in the plane industry.

The preliminary deal, reached last Friday, would increase pilot pay by 34% over the next four years, give pilots a substantial sign-on bonus, increase maternity leave to 10 weeks and offer higher pay to pilots whose flights are rescheduled during a trip. 

Delta workers have been without a contract for nearly three years after their contract became amendable in 2019 and even voted to strike in October if a deal was not reached, citing untenable working conditions.

If approved, the deal would put Delta’s pilot pay above many others in the industry, including competitors United and American Airlines.

“Without question. Bargaining progress by one airline will stimulate other ongoing labor negotiations in our industry,” the Allied Pilot Association, which represents thousands of American Airlines pilots, said in a statement. 

Last month, the APA rejected a proposal by American Airlines that would have given its pilots a 19% raise over two years. Now that a 34% raise precedent has been set by Delta, experts say unions have a reason to put pressure on airlines.

United workers have also been dissatisfied with recent contract proposals, rejecting a 14.5% raise. Hundreds of pilots picketed outside Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, calling for a new industry standard contract.

Contract negotiations were halted somewhat during the pandemic as the industry was rocked by a lack of travelers. Over the past two years, over 50,000 workers left the industry, leaving the airlines in intense competition for qualified pilots now that travel has exploded. 

Language for the Delta deal is still being ironed out before it’s voted on by the union in January.

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