How "Tentative" Is It?
Last week, travelers
rejoiced at the news the pilots union at Delta Air Lines had
reached a tentative agreement with airline
management on a new pay and benefits package, averting a possible
holiday-weekend pilots strike. Just how "tentative"
that deal may be, though, will now come up for review -- as union
leaders meet in New Orleans Wednesday to decide whether to accept
the deal or not.
Union officials have kept tight lips on the details of the
agreement, and even disputed a report published in the Wall Street
Journal over the weekend that claimed the deal will save Delta up
to $290 million a year and would result in a 14 percent wage cut
The pay cut package -- which, if true, would make permanent a
temporary cut that has been in place since December -- also
includes future wage increases for pilots based on Delta's
financial good fortunes, the WSJ reported.
But, again... that's all just speculation... right?
"The numbers quoted ... are inaccurate," said Air Line Pilots
Association spokesman Mike Pinho to the Atlanta
Journal-Constitution. "ALPA will not publicly comment on the
specifics of the tentative agreement prior to our governing body
and our pilots having a chance to read the agreement, digest it and
ask questions concerning the agreement."
Concessions in profit sharing and retirement benefits
compensation are also believed to be part of the tentative
The union's Master
Executive Council will decide whether to send the last-minute
agreement -- reached less than 24 hours before a federal
arbitration board was expected to rule on whether Delta could void
its current contract with pilots -- to the union's 5,930 pilots for
a ratification vote. That would probably take about a month.
Some industry analysts expect the deal -- no matter how much it
may benefit pilots in the long run -- to be a hard sell among
Delta's rank-and-file pilots, many of whom seemed eager to strike
in the name of not giving Delta any further concessions than what
they had already agreed to.
Delta isn't the only carrier that currently awaits word from its
pilots on a concessionary pilot contract. Northwest Airlines --
which filed for Chapter 11 the same day as Delta, last September 14
-- is also in the midst of a ratification vote on a pilot contract.
The outcome of that vote -- which is expected to take place before
the Delta contract goes to vote -- could affect the outcome of the
Delta deal, some experts suggest.
"If Northwest pilots ratify their tentative agreement, it will
put more pressure on Delta pilots to ratify their deal as well,"
said airline consultant Michael J. Boyd. "Pilots pay close
attention to what's going on with their peers throughout the
industry. What happens at one carrier won't go unnoticed at the
Pilots at Northwest are scheduled to cast their electronic
ballots on May 3.