United offers pilots triple pay to avoid omicron flight cancellations

North Charleston from North Charleston, SC, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – United is bumping up pay to its pilots who take extra trips in January to avoid flight cancellations, according to an internal memo seen by CNBC.

The U.S. major airline has reached an agreement with the pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association, for higher pay to cover open trips.

According to the note, United offered its pilots three-and-a-half times their pay for flying open trips during the crucial holiday dates, between 30 December and 3 January, and triple pay for extra trips between 4 January and 29 January. United has also increased pay for its flight attendants.

On Sunday, more than 2,500 domestic flights were canceled due to a combination of bad weather and the spread of the Omicron variant. Earlier this week, airlines experienced a surge in sick calls from crews that tested positive for COVID. 

“Due to the rapid spread of the COVID Omicron variant, we are currently seeing record levels of pilot sick calls,” the pilots’ union wrote to its members. “The impact on the operation is clear and United has experienced a correspondingly large number of cancellations over the past week.”

JetBlue, American, Southwest, and Spirit have also increased crew pay to avoid flight disruptions.

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