Delta pilots look forward to pilot-driven contract improvements to propel them into the future in Contract 2019 negotiations.

In 2018, the Delta Master Executive Council (MEC) built upon the foundation laid the year before in preparation for Contract 2019 negotiations. The Negotiating and Communications Committees launched a dedicated Contract 2019 microsite, the Contract Preparedness educational series, and polls and surveys to support a pilot-driven philosophy for negotiations. Pay, work rules, retirement and insurance, and scope make up the four pillars of the pilots’ strategy for improvements in Contract 2019.

The threat of outsourcing and unequal growth from the company’s joint ventures continues to be a key focus. The Scope Compliance & Analysis Committee developed the Dots on a Map scope podcast to provide insight into these partnership agreements and a scope microsite, to house educational resources, including the “Scope Scorecard,” which shows how Delta’s joint venture relationships are performing in real time.

The Negotiating, Retirement & Insurance, and Strategic Planning Committees focused on negotiations prep and researching potential avenues and vehicles for retirement savings, setting the groundwork now for continued improvement in the future. The Central Air Safety Committee continued its safety vigilance, while Pilot Family Matters, Military Affairs, Aviation Security, and Scheduling Committees focused on creating reference materials for Delta pilots.

The airline hired just shy of 600 new pilots in 2018, pausing hiring after the June class. Delta has announced approximately 90 pilots will join the airline each month beginning in 2019 in anticipation of oncoming retirements. Approximately 400 pilots are scheduled to retire in 2019, with 6,200 retirements expected over the next decade.

To engage and unify the diverse and growing pilot group, the Delta Pilot Network (DPN) ramped up in 2018, focusing on pilot unity, engagement, and support. The network includes more than 25 first-time ALPA volunteers with an average longevity of less than eight years at Delta, effectively serving as an entrance point for newer pilots into MEC service. The DPN hosts pilot unity-building events around the Delta system so that pilots and their families can interact with their union representatives, encourages pilot engagement through the MEC's blog and private Facebook group, and activates call centers following natural disasters.

The MEC also advanced its legislative advocacy efforts through record participation in ALPA-PAC, being the first-ever MEC to have every member participate at the Behncke Circle level. Hundreds of Delta pilots joined their fellow ALPA members to urge legislators on Capitol Hill to protect pilot careers through in-person events and ALPA’s Calls to Action.

The airline continues to demonstrate positive profit and growth trends with a business model of vigorous global growth, emphasizing joint ventures, partial ownerships, and other partnerships. Early projections for 2019 are of continued profitability, with a slight improvement over 2018 margins. The first A220 was delivered in October 2018, with service beginning shortly after.

Delta is part of a profit-/loss-sharing agreement (joint venture) with Aeroméxico, Air France–KLM–Alitalia, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia and plans to enter into an agreement with WestJet. Delta also has 49 percent ownership stakes in both Aeroméxico and Virgin Atlantic, and smaller ownership stakes in Air France–KLM, GOL, and China Eastern, creating additional challenges and concerns. While each joint venture is unique, the MEC’s goal is always the same: to ensure that Delta pilots maintain their share of flying and growth, which is accomplished through an agreement on production balance for each joint venture.

Delta has jointly petitioned the Department of Transportation, along with Air France–KLM and Virgin Atlantic, to form a new three-way alliance that would replace the current transatlantic joint venture. In the coming year, Delta could potentially be part of six or more joint ventures with only one production balance agreement (Virgin Australia).

As Delta’s business model changes to include more foreign partnerships and ownership stakes, the MEC will continue its work to protect the pilots’ flying and retain a balanced share of flying and growth.

The MEC committee structure is robust, the pilots are engaged, and the company is projecting record growth. Delta pilots are looking forward to a successful negotiations and a strong future.