DALLAS — The largest pilots union has approved a contract that would raise pilot pay at United Airlines by more than 14% over the next 18 months, potentially paving the way for similar wage increases across the industry.
The Air Line Pilots Association said on Friday the board overseeing relations with United had approved a two-year interim deal that covers about 14,000 pilots at the airline.
The contract would need to be ratified by the base pilots to come into effect. Voting will take place until July 15.
Chicago-based United is the first major U.S. airline to strike a deal with its pilots since industry talks were put on hold due to the pandemic. Labor groups at other major airlines have been closely following contract talks with United as a potential guide in their own negotiations.
Federal law creates a long and arduous process before airline workers can legally strike, but major airline pilots have picketed airports and other locations to pressure management to ‘it raises wages. Pilots have complained that low-staff airlines are asking them to work too many flights, with more pilots reporting fatigue.
The United contract, which the union has valued at $1.3 billion over two years, would be retroactive to early 2022 and provide three wage increases totaling more than 14.5% until the end of next year. The union said it includes better overtime and pay, a new pension plan, a new 8-week paid maternity leave benefit and improved scheduling arrangements.
The deal is likely to raise concerns on Wall Street about higher spending. Airlines have already seen their costs per seat rise more sharply as travel has rebounded from the worst of the pandemic.
JPMorgan airline analyst Jamie Baker said the deal likely exceeded United’s previous forecast for rising costs. He said pilots in Alaska, American, Delta and Southwest will use United’s tentative agreement in their negotiations, and other United work groups will seek raises similar to those of the pilots.