Delta gives employees 4% raises, first pay increase since before the pandemic

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Flight attendants hand out refreshments to a packed Delta Airlines flight traveling from Ronald Regan National Airport to MinneapolisSaint Paul International Airport on Friday, May 21, 2021.
Kent Nishimura | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Delta Air Lines on Thursday said it would give most of its 75,000 employees a 4% pay raise, their first increase since the fall of 2019, before the pandemic.

Airlines were among the hardest-hit during Covid as travel demand dried up, spurring record losses at all the major carriers. But bookings are back on the upswing, particularly for domestic leisure travel.

Now carriers are scrambling to hire and train staff to match surging travel demand. Airlines like Southwest Airlines and United Airlines have raised minimum pay or offered hiring bonuses to attract workers in a tight labor market and amid high inflation.

A Delta spokesman said the increases are part of regular, base-pay raises the company offered employees before Covid hit.

Delta’s CEO Ed Bastian said the airline still expects an overall loss in the first quarter because of omicron’s impact on staffing and travel early this year. The company expects a profit for the month of March.

“We’ve come a long way since the darkest days of 2020,” Bastian said in an employee memo announcing the pay increases. He said the airline is “optimistic” that it can generate a profit this year.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA last week wrote to Delta cabin crew members noting they haven’t received a pay increase since 2019. The flight attendants’ union is in the middle of a membership drive at Delta that it launched in November 2019.

Delta’s roughly 20,000 flight attendants are the largest non-union cabin crew of any U.S. airline.

The union said “pretty much every other U.S. Flight Attendant knows what to count on as detailed in their contract. Instead, we’re waiting and wondering, wishing and hoping that management, and management alone, will wake up one day and decide to give raises.”

Delta said in a statement to CNBC the pay increase was not related to the flight attendant union drive.

“Delta has a long track record of taking care of our people, and as the CEO said, this is a well-deserved base pay increase for our people who continue to excel at safely taking care of our customers with a travel experience that sets us apart,” an airline spokesman said.

The pay increase does not apply to Delta pilots.

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