American Airlines Faces Pilot Exodus To Delta Air Lines

American Airlines faces pilot exodus to Delta Air Lines.
Photo Credit: Kyle Hayes/AviationSource

LONDON – American Airlines faces an exodus of pilots as union heads in Philadelphia encourage staff to get a job at Delta Air Lines if contract negotiations fall through.

The Full Message: Not Good for American Airlines?

American Airlines faces pilot exodus to Delta Air Lines.
Photo sourced from @xJonNYC on Twitter.

As reported by @xJonNYC, Paul DiOrio and Kevin Wilkes, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the pilots union representing the airline in Philadelphia, sent out the following message:

“Fellow PHL Pilots. Below is a chart provided by Delta Management that outlines the disparity in profit
sharing between Delta, United, and American.

Since we are employed by American, we will only focus on the disparity between Delta and American Airlines.

Not that we want to rub it in, but pilots at Delta will make substantially more than pilots here at American. This is even before Delta’s industry-leading pay rates take effect.

This disparity is only further worsened by this management’s insistence that all wholly owned employees be included in the total profit-sharing pool, which reduces the profit-sharing payout for American Airlines pilots by about 10%.

So even if the management team can figure out how to match Delta profits, we will still receive 10% less profit sharing as a result of the larger payout pool here in American.

Many pilots have told us that improved quality of life is a “must-have” in our next agreement.

Since the release of the Delta TA, we have been consistently asked by our newer pilots whether they should remain here in American or possibly jump ship and head to the more lucrative and pilot-friendly Delta.

While this determination is ultimately the decision of each individual, we can tell these pilots that if the past action by this management is any indication of how things will go, this “cost advantage on the backs of its pilots” management team will not change and will not come close to what Delta pilots enjoy as it
pertains to the quality of life.

Let them prove us wrong.

With this in mind, and thinking of our newer pilots with less than 5 years here at American, we thought it would be helpful for pilots to see the upgrade DOH for the two most recent Vacancy Bids at Delta.

We have been told by newer pilots that they came to American because of the quick upward movement
and upgrades.

Not so fast! Delta’s most recent bid includes upgrades after just a few months at Delta. Captain upgrades with less than 1-year seniority are highlighted in yellow.

No one knows what our next contract will include, but we can’t just ignore this management’s history.

Specifically, its unwillingness to improve work rules/quality of life. We know it will be difficult for even this management to offer anything less than the new standard when it comes to pay.

However, we believe, unfortunately, that’s where it will end. If you’re OK with Delta $$ (at least initially) and spending the next 25-35 years of your life working with horrific work rules and little scheduling flexibility, then do nothing and just live with it.

However, if the bottom-of-the-industry quality of life isn’t what you signed on for as a professional airline pilot, and quality of life is important to you, we strongly recommend you APPLY TO DELTA NOW AS A PLACEHOLDER and at least start the process and get in line so if our management continues with their “just say no” approach, you’re ready to make the move.

As difficult as it may seem, think about where you would be (see charts above) if you had left for Delta a few years ago.

We are not the only airline with significant upward progression. It’s everywhere! Delta pilots hired in August 2022 were just awarded, captain!! Don’t just hope for the best; hedge your bet and Apply to Delta now.

Finally, your representatives saw where prior negotiations were heading during the Spring of 2022.

We were not Johnny Come Lately in opposing the failed TA; rather, we were very vocal in identifying the inadequacies early on, whether it was fighting to rescind the sub-inflation, Negotiating Committee’s unilateral pay proposal reduction last Spring, or voting against reducing our pay proposal by an industry lagging 50% in August 2022.

We (and other pilot groups) understand the value of an airline pilot in today’s environment and refuse to sell ourselves short to get a deal.”

Paul DiOrio and Kevin Wilkes, the Chair and Vice-Chair of the pilots union representing the airline in Philadelphia

Could This Become An Issue?

American Airlines faces pilot exodus to Delta Air Lines.
Photo Credit: Arash Abed/AviationSource

The fact that the unions are talking like this to American Airlines pilots in Philadelphia can be seen as a concerning element that needs to be closely watched.

If pilots at the airline do follow through with this, then Delta Air Lines will stand to benefit from this, especially at a time when pilot shortages are a big issue.

Another angle to look at this from is whether this could form the foundation of pilots based in other American Airlines hubs across the U.S. to follow suit as well.

AviationSource has approached American Airlines for a comment, and at the time of publication, they have not responded to our queries.


Photo Credit: Jamie Clarke/AviationSource

This remains a dangerous issue for American Airlines to tackle. If the airline chooses to offer better contracts, then this can be an issue best avoided.

However, if they remain in their current position, this could put pressure on its network out of Philadelphia and potentially beyond if other pilots in different hubs choose to follow suit.

Looking ahead, it’s going to be interesting to see how far this will go, and whether we indeed could see a mass exodus of pilots from the airline.

By James Field - Editor in Chief 7 Min Read
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