For Airline Pilots, The Struggle Is Real

Listen to pilots talk publicly, posturing in contract negotiations, it’s a grueling career that no one should want. Privately, though, many realize that being entrusted with $100 million machines and flying them around for a living is a pretty great gig. Many also build side businesses in their time off (insurance is a common one).

Picketing by pilots is a bad look, though. Pilots do not realize how they come across. They simply aren’t successful marketing themselves as the exploited worker class.

Delta Air Lines pilots have been conducting ‘informational picketing’ to protest their exhaustion from working 80 hours a month. And they’re doing it by marching in the hot sun. Someone flagged these photos for me with the caption ‘Atlanta White Pride.’

The @Delta_Pilots took an unprecedented step in passing a vote of “no confidence” in Delta for scheduling issues that have impacted customers & pilots. Time for a new industry-leading pilot contract & a better @Delta #DeltaPilotContractNow

— Delta Air Lines Pilots (@Delta_Pilots) June 30, 2022

Watch the spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union not answer Andrew Ross Sorkin’s question on Squawk Box about $400,000+ pay for senior widebody captains under American’s new contract proposal.

"Of the over 700 cancellations, 90% of them was because management couldn't connect a pilot to the airplane. This is a failure of the operation. It's got to stop, it's got to get fixed," Allied Pilots Association’s Dennis Tajer. "They're pushing us right to the edge."

— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) July 1, 2022

United Airlines pilots just negotiated an industry-leading contract that’s no longer industry leading, and they don’t seem to want it anymore. They were crowing about 14% raises. That was last Friday.

There are absolutely legitimate beefs about the pilot lifestyle. If you have a family you spend a lot of time apart from them. If your airline is operationally unsound you wind up in cities you never expected to be flying to. And you may not even get your hotel scheduled properly (take matters into your own hands, book the room yourself, and fight for reimbursement which might take months). You sit around a lot…

Airlines can and should do better for their pilots, and for their customers who rely on those pilots. But the truth is it’s a great gig for many, and even (some) regional carriers are now paying more.

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