Delta Air Lines experienced another year of record financial success in 2015. The airline’s balance sheet continues to strengthen, and it’s arguably the envy of the airline industry. Delta’s 2016 financial projections are very favorable as well. The carrier’s plans for the foreseeable future call for continued pilot hiring and modest fleet growth.

Against the airline’s robust economic backdrop, the Delta pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) began 2015 focused on preparing for contract negotiations, with the current pilot working agreement (PWA) becoming amendable on Jan. 1, 2016. In early spring of last year, Delta management approached the MEC with the idea of an expedited negotiations with a goal of reaching an agreement six months ahead of the amendable date. These negotiations did result in an early tentative agreement, but the pilot group ultimately rejected the agreement in the membership-ratification process. After a change in MEC leadership in September and extensive polling and surveying of the membership throughout the fall, the MEC Negotiating Committee recommenced Section 6 negotiations for a new PWA in late December.

Newly elected representatives will take office in March 2016 for Councils 44 and 81. Council 44 officers are Capt. Sam DeRosa, chairman; Capt. Scott Martin, vice chairman; F/O Christopher Kern, secretary-treasurer; and F/O James Johnson, the F/O rep. Capt. Michael Poggi, chairman; F/O Nathaniel Brown, vice chairman; and F/O Adam McFarland, secretary-treasurer, will represent Council 81.

Negotiations have not been limited to Section 6 bargaining, and mid-contract letters of agreement have produced improvements in 2015 as in previous years for the Delta pilots. In yet the latest example, the MEC and Delta management took an unprecedented and important step to advance their mutual commitment to flight safety. On Nov. 20, 2015, the MEC voted unanimously to ratify the “CrossTalk” Letter of Agreement. This groundbreaking agreement was the culmination of a three-year effort to allow the combined use of FOQA data and ASAP reports in the safety review process. It permits the use of these two important safety review tools, while maintaining important job-protection provisions for Delta pilots. The MEC’s Central Air Safety Committee continues to advocate and innovate the concept of a “fair and just corporate culture” at Delta with regard to flight operations safety.

As the airline evolves and grows via international alliances and joint ventures, the MEC has responded to protect and enhance the pilots’ job security. Along with the pilots of Delta’s respective airline partners, the pilots continue to actively participate in the SkyTeam Pilot Alliance, which meets twice a year as a group, and then individually as necessary. The alliance is committed to respecting each pilot groups’ flying and to enforcing the labor provisions contained in Open Skies agreements.

Looking ahead, 2016 will be a significant year for the Delta pilot group. On January 1, the PWA became amendable under Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act. The Delta MEC has reengaged in Section 6 negotiations. The pilots have made their negotiation priorities clear to the MEC, and the MEC is committed to transparency and to honoring pilot input throughout the negotiating process.

The PWA stipulates that if an agreement isn’t reached by March 31, 2016, the MEC and Delta management will jointly file for mediation with the National Mediation Board. The MEC is fully prepared for this option if an agreement can’t be achieved by the end of March.

Going forward, the MEC’s goal is to achieve, and have the pilots ratify, an agreement that advances the profession and reflects the Delta pilots’ contribution to Delta’s unprecedented success. 

Delta jets parked on the apron at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport - ALPA
Delta jets parked on the apron at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.