United reaches new contract deal with pilots union, the first of the major airlines in pandemic

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Boeing 777ER United Airlines. Aircraft to Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport.
Massimo Insabato | Mondadori Portfolio | Getty Images

United Airlines and its pilots’ labor union have reached an agreement on new contract terms, the first of the major carriers to strike a deal since the start of the pandemic. The crisis roiled the industry and exacerbated a pilot shortage and training backlog.

The Air Line Pilots Association and United didn’t disclose the terms of the deal on Friday, but they will likely include higher pay and other improvements.

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United has had perhaps the least contentious relationship with its pilots unions of the major carriers and struck early deals with the airline to keep pilots on staff and trained during the pandemic.

“United Airlines was the only airline to work with our pilots union to reach an agreement during COVID,” CEO Scott Kirby said in a LinkedIn post. “It’s not surprising that we are now the first airline to get an Agreement in Principle for an industry leading new pilot contract.”

The agreement still faces a vote by the union and later, by pilots.

Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are still in negotiations with pilot unions, which have organized pickets in recent months to protest grueling schedules.

United isn’t immune to the pilot shortage. The Chicago-based airline, like other carriers, has had to cut back on routes and park planes because of a shortage of pilots that fly for the smaller regional carriers that feed its network.

On Friday at 1 p.m. ET, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., will hold a hearing on the future aviation workforce, which will be held at the United Aviate Academy, United’s new flight school, in Goodyear, Arizona.

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