Pilots are generally quite easy to identify at airports, given the distinctive features of their uniforms. Their uniforms usually have three or four stripes (outside the US you will sometimes see two stripes), along with the easily identifiable pilot hat.
Well, as noted @xJonNYC, if you see Delta pilots at airports in the days and weeks to come, you might notice some not wearing caps. It is not a coincidence.
Delta pilots express their frustration by taking off their hats
Pilots are one of Delta’s few unionized work groups, and they are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). The pilots have wanted a new contract for some time, but haven’t made much progress. Hostility between pilots and management continues to grow, with pilots feeling that executives are dragging their feet.
Hundreds of furloughed Delta pilots picketed airports across the country on Thursday, in a bid to secure a new contract.
Drivers have a subtle new way to express their frustration with management, and it comes in the form of a ‘Hats off to a new contract’ campaign. It seems that the union is encouraging pilots to stop wearing their hats, as a small way of indicating that they want a new contract.
Now, just because the union recommends it doesn’t mean all pilots will accept it. By the way, you might be able to see where the pilots are at based on whether or not they’re wearing their hats when walking around airports.
But in the end, it seems like a polite way to express displeasure, and I’m a fan of it.
In the past, we have seen pilots from certain airlines take very different approaches to expressing their frustration with management. For example, in the late 2000s, many United drivers were angry, and some would “braking” while taxiing, in order to increase fuel consumption. So yeah, not wearing a hat is nothing compared to that.
Why do Delta pilots want a new contract?
Needless to say, it’s been a tough two years for the airline industry, although at this point things are looking up. There also continues to be a significant shortage of pilots, so pilots have some bargaining power.
We have seen several regional airlines massively increase wages. Admittedly, regional pilots were not paid much before these changes, because the goal is always to work at one of the “big” carriers, where the salary has always been quite good.
At this point, virtually all major airlines are in the process of negotiating contracts with pilots, as pilots want more pay. The United drivers have a new interim contract that will see them earn pay increases of up to 14%, and the drivers will vote on it in mid-July. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the American pilots are set to vote on a contract that could get them salary increases of up to 17%.
For example, with American’s proposed new contract, senior Boeing 737 captains would earn a base salary of $340,000 per year, while senior Boeing 777 captains would earn a base salary of $425,000 per year.
Pilots from Alaska, Delta and the Southwest are also battling for new contracts, but aren’t as advanced as American or United. I’m curious to see how it works. From your economic outlook, I certainly can’t blame the pilots for wanting to lock something down ASAP, because I think darker days are ahead and then the pilots will have a lot less clout.
At the end of the line
Delta pilots fight for a new contract. In addition to nationwide picketing, you can also expect many pilots to wear their hats off at airports. It’s something totally subtle that most people probably wouldn’t notice or think about. But as someone who finds this kind of stuff interesting, I would certainly be curious to observe this.
If you are flying with Delta in the next few days, please indicate if you see Delta pilots wearing hats or not!