Air Canada pilots denounce ‘shameful’ pay gap with US after Delta deal

MONTREAL, March 3 (Reuters) – Air Canada (AC.TO) pilots at US carrier Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), are pressing for new contract talks following recent gains won by pilots in the union. have been representatives told Reuters.

A contract between Delta and its pilots that went into effect Thursday provides for a 34% pay increase over four years, putting pressure on other US carriers to reach similar deals.

It is propelling pilots into Canada’s largest carrier. The Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) said via email that Delta’s latest hourly pay rates are 45% higher than current Air Canada hourly pay rates.

Air Canada pilots have received 2% pay increases per year since 2014, said the ACPA, which represents about 4,500 pilots. The union said they could potentially start wage negotiations as early as this year or in 2024.

“Pilots in the US have recently won significant pay increases and other contractual reform, creating an embarrassing gap with Canada,” Charlene Hoody, a top ACPA union leader, said in a statement.

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Talks come as North American carriers are collectively hiring thousands of pilots to meet a rebound in travel demand following a pandemic-induced slump. Air Canada did not respond to a request for comment.

The ACPA is in talks to join the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the world’s largest pilots’ union representing possibly more than 60,000 pilots.

Tim Perry, president of ALPA Canada, said many US carriers recognize the importance of crew to their business models by providing better pay and working conditions for their pilots, in most cases surpassing their Canadian counterparts.

Pilots north of the border are now trying to turn a profit. Pilots at Canada’s Sunwing Airlines won a 23% pay raise earlier this year and a 2.5% raise next January, union Unifor said.

Some airline executives are concerned that huge pilot pay increases will drive up fixed costs and make it harder to repair debt-ridden balance sheets. Delta anticipates a hit to its earnings in the first quarter as the pilot deal is expected to increase operating costs.

Air Canada, which expects to return to 2019 levels of capacity next year, is also facing cost pressures.

Pay for pilots is also a priority in negotiations at Canada’s second-largest carrier, WestJet.

US carriers American Airlines Group (AAL.O) and United Airlines (UAL.O) are also in talks with their pilots.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago Editing by Matthew Lewis and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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