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
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. Carriers 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 forecasts 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 nonunion cabin crew of any U.S. airline. The union said the organizing drive likely contributed to the decision “as part of an effort to divide Delta workers who are organizing to make Delta a better place to work.”
“As long as Delta Flight Attendants are without a contract, like management at Delta has for themselves, promises can change,” AFA wrote in a post on its website after the pay increases were announced.
Delta said in a statement to CNBC that 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.