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About 100 Delta Air Lines pilots picketed Friday at Salt Lake City International Airport, saying their employer now the world's most profitable airline never repaid them for pay cuts and concessions that helped it escape bankruptcy.
It was part of a protest at eight airports nationally. The picket did not disrupt flights, and it was not a formal strike but pilots said it is designed, hopefully, to avoid one later.
"We certainly do not want to see [a strike] happen," said Mike Dunn, spokesman for the pilots picketing in Salt Lake City, one of Delta's major hubs. "It's up to the company. They could make this go away tomorrow."
Dunn said pilots have been in long-running negotiations with Delta for a new contract and are frustrated at their slow pace. "We are 16 months past when we could have had a deal, and six months past when we should have had a deal."
Pilots want the company to restore some of the pay and other concessions they made in past years to help the company survive.
"We gave up 42 percent of our pay before bankruptcy and another 8 percent in bankruptcy," Dunn said. "We lost vacation time. And we lost our defined benefit, which is our retirement. That is a big chunk of change."
He added, "After 12 years, we have yet to see a significant increase in pay." Meanwhile, Dunn said, Delta "is raking it in. It is the most profitable airline on the planet, bar none. They have had 16 quarters of quarter-over-quarter profit. Last year: $6.1 billion in profit. This year, the forecast is for over $10 billion."
Dunn said Delta's "management has been well compensated since we got out of bankruptcy. The investors in Wall Street have been well rewarded. The non-pilot employees in November received a 14.5 percent pay raise. The only group that isn't in there is us."
Delta Air Lines issued a written statement saying that it and the pilots' union "are making progress at the negotiations table. The parties have been meeting regularly in direct negotiations and with mediators from the National Mediation Board, and there is an aggressive schedule planned with the mediators through June and July."
"We are committed to ensuring the Delta pilots have industry-leading pay, benefits and work rules," said Steve Dickson, Delta's senior vice president for flight operations. "Reaching a timely agreement in our volatile industry is in the best interests of all Delta stakeholders and will position our company for long-term growth and success."
Delta pilots protested for about three hours in Salt Lake City on Friday, forming a long line in front of the Delta terminal. They were also joined by three Southwest Airlines pilots and one from American Airlines. "They wanted to show they support us," Dunn said.
Pilots also picketed at airports in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-LaGuardia and Seattle.